Event organisers share their plans for 2021 activities

Managing safety and restrictions with a desire to reunite the profession, event organisers are planning for events and activities in the year ahead

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Many across the profession are looking forward to a time when they can safely reconvene at shows and conferences after a year of cancellations and delays.

The past year has seen event organisers managing the task of planning, rescheduling and adapting events in response to the threats of the pandemic and ever-changing restrictions.

Suppliers have noted the effect of the pauses in the events calendar, with Positive Impact managing director, Maxine Green, telling OT last year: “With no trade events we’ve had to get quite clever to find different ways of getting the message out there.”

Now, with vaccine programmes in process, many are hoping that it won’t be long before the industry can meet again to reunite and rebuild, and event organisers are putting plans in place for the year ahead.

OT spoke with the teams organising Mido, Vision Expo East, Silmo, Opti and 100% Optical, to hear their plans.

Vision Expo East: June 2021

Last month, The Vision Council and Reed Exhibitions, organisers of the Vision Expo event, announced plans to move the date and venue of the 2021 event.

The event was due to be held in May at the Javits Center in New York City, but will now be held on 2–5 of June at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Florida. The decision to move the event was based on current restrictions on large gatherings in New York State.

Commenting on the decision, Mitch Barkley, vice president of trade shows and meetings at The Vision Council, said organisers needed a suitable location to provide the Vision Expo experience.

He explained: “Given its track record of successfully hosting more than 50 in-person events between March and December 2020, we are confident the right decision is to move the show to the OCCC as the new 2021 host site, in order to give our customers every opportunity to network and share their new products.”

Fran Pennella, vice president of Vision Expo at Reed Exhibitions, explained that the event organisers are working closely with the venue to finalise details of the show to ensure health and safety guidelines and procedures are maintained.

The OCCC has health and safety precautions in place along with nationally-recommended precautions, which include mandatory social distancing and mask-wearing and was one of the first convention centres in the nation to receive the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s GBAC Star accreditation, recognised as a “gold standard” for safe venues.

We are energised by the enthusiasm the industry is demonstrating and look forward to a successful event in June

Fran Pennella, vice president of Vision Expo at Reed Exhibitions

The venue is also part of what has been described as, a “first-of-its-kind” collaboration between Orlando Health and Visit Orlando, providing convention groups with personalised medical planning and support.

Commitment from suppliers and designers for the event is “stronger than ever,” Ms Pennella said. She added, “In fact, companies who were not planning on participating when the show was scheduled to take place in New York are now committing to Orlando – a testament to the confidence the industry has in this show.”

Conversations are also underway with external organisations interested in co-locating their events to Orlando, “to help bring the community together for the first time in 19 months,” Ms Pennella explained. “We are energised by the enthusiasm the industry is demonstrating and look forward to a successful event in June.”

Mr Barkley confirmed that efforts to keep professionals and the industry connected between in-person events will continue in 2021.

Event organisers launched a series of virtual programmes last year in response to the pandemic. Hosted under the umbrella of Vision Connects, a year-round digital platform, Vision Expo’s virtual programming series was designed for the eyewear and eye care community to source content and build knowledge.

To help the profession to stay connected between in-person events, Vision Expo held its Eye2Eye educational series of virtual panels and interactive conversations, and also delivered a Virtual Career Zone event in September to connect young professionals with optical companies.

As for the year ahead, Mr Barkley explained: “The Vision Council and Reed Exhibitions are reimagining the show’s continuing education offerings with the recent launch of VisionEd Direct, a new virtual continuing education platform offering on-demand accredited courses, and plans for a new education area to debut at Vision Expo East 2021.”

Silmo: September 2021

Last year, Silmo took the decision to cancel the 2020 Paris event in light of the continuing uncertainties over whether the event would be able to take place as planned. Instead, the organisers launched a ‘roadshow’ version of the trade fair, Silmo Hors les Murs, across Europe.

Speaking to OT of the 2021 plans, event organisers confirmed, “We have reasons to hope that we will be able to hold Silmo Paris as planned from September 24 to 27.”

“The number of exhibitors registered to date is very promising, demonstrating the optimism that a number of companies have to finally meet up again after nearly two years with no major events,” explained Amélie Morel, president of Silmo.

With the situation ever fragile and fluid, the event organisers are also considering potential alternatives, in much the same way as the team organised Silmo Hors les Murs. Ms Morel suggested that this move demonstrated its ability to accommodate the public safely, adding, “We have the logistics and expertise. We are accustomed to overcoming difficulties and complications that arise.”

“Whatever happens, we are preparing for the future and we will be able to provide efficient solutions for Silmo Paris, as well as for all the satellite events for which we are responsible: Silmo Istanbul, les Specs, Silmo Showroom and so on,” she added.

The number of exhibitors registered to date is very promising, demonstrating the optimism that a number of companies have to finally meet up again

A spokesperson for Silmo

Like many event companies, the organisers will need the government’s authorisation to open trade fairs and will need to meet the rules and requirements of the government.

However, the team are remaining positive, with Ms Morel commenting that, with vaccination programmes in progress around the world, “We should have a better visibility after the first half of the year, which will enable us to go confidently into high gear after the summer season.”

In recent months, Silmo has launched a series of podcasts dedicated to the subject of corporate social responsibility.

Explaining this decision, the team told OT, “Year after year, figures show that CSR has become a true driver for the development of companies in every industry.”

The event organisers are holding a survey for optical professionals that it suggests will help to form the basis of a consideration to co-construct a CSR approach for the whole industry, something that organisers hope to reveal at Silmo Paris 2021.

Opti: January 2022

Optics and design trade show, Opti, took the decision to cancel its 2021 event, due to have been held in Germany in January, as uncertainty surrounding travel restrictions and infection rates increased.

The event organisers are now working towards the 2022 event, to be held on 14–16 January at Fairground Munich.

Speaking to OT, exhibition director, Bettina Reiter, said: “Initially the focus will be on planning a trade show that considers all needs for personal safety and personal contact.”

“Our loyal exhibitors are already signalling how much they miss Opti and are looking forward to the edition in 2022,” she added.

Discussing how the event might have to adapt to new COVID-safety requirements, organisers shared that they are working with both the venue and authorities, and that Fairground Munich’s safety and hygiene concepts will apply at the event. Ms Reiter added: “We commit ourselves to the safety and hygiene standards that might, or will, be obligatory in January 2022, so that safe personal encounters are possible.”

Ms Reiter continued: “We assume that in the next few months vaccinations will be pushed forward and quick tests will be even more uncomplicated, thus certainly will be reflected at Opti 2022.”

Real emotions, intensive, spontaneous conversations and the experience of a broad variety of products will than take place again at Opti 2022

Bettina Reiter, Opti exhibition director

In January, when the event would have taken place, Opti launched two social media campaigns. These presented the eyewear trends that are shared annually at the trade fair, along with #optiproudlypresents, which offered exhibitors who would have attended the show an opportunity to present their products and solutions.

The event organisers are not planning an additional or alternative event before the next Opti in 2022, explaining that the situation “does not yet allow for any reliable planning certainty.”

“From our point of view, a purely digital event is no substitute for a trade fair like Opti, which is about personal exchange, networking, establishing and expanding business, as well as feeling and discovering products,” Ms Reiter explained.

Manufacturers are also establishing their own presentations to introduce products and solutions virtually to customers, Ms Reiter noted.

“This individually structured format certainly satisfies the appetite and enables staying in touch during the year and at a distance,” Ms Reiter shared, but added, “Real emotions, intensive, spontaneous conversations and the experience of a broad variety of products will than take place again at Opti 2022.”

100% Optical: May 2021 online and January 2022

Earlier this year, Media 10, the organisers of 100% Optical, announced the decision to postpone the show until January 2022.

With the country in lockdown and the likelihood of restrictions extending into the spring, organisers felt that running the show with limited attendance would not be in the best interest for delegates.

Director of 100% Optical, Nathan Garnett, shared that, though disappointed to not be going ahead in-person, the decision would enable the event organisers and exhibitors to plan for 2022 “with more certainty.”

In the meantime, organisers are planning a digital event in May to help keep the profession connected. The two day event is set to provide an opportunity for networking, meeting suppliers and gathering CET points.

The event will utilise a digital platform to showcase brands, host content and facilitate conversations, with Media is aiming to make the event as interactive as possible.

Speaking to OT for the February/March edition of the journal, Mr Garnett explained: “I believe virtual events can perform a vital function of connecting suppliers with buyers, whilst we wait for shows in January 2022.”

We’ve now got a real opportunity to make it the big showpiece that the industry wants

Nathan Garnett, director of 100% Optical

The AOP, which supports the show as the official event partner and education provider, has also confirmed it will continue to work with Media 10 to ensure some of the education content planned for the event could still be delivered, to support members to achieve points required in the final year of the CET cycle.

Dr Ian Beasley, head of education and OT clinical editor shared: “The AOP will continue to adjust its programme of CET to meet member demand in the third year of the cycle. An extensive range of interactive CET will be available online throughout the year, offering webinars and peer discussions with key target groups in mind, including locums, independent practitioners and therapeutic prescribers.”

Media 10 will now also be refocusing on planning for the 2022 event, which has returned to its January position in the events calendar.

It is expected to be one of the largest optical events staged in the UK for a number of years, Mr Garnett suggested, telling OT: “We had a really good line-up for 2021, and now that we have extra time, I think we can get in even more companies.”

“When we launched this show nearly eight years ago, people talked about how big they thought the optical show would be for the sector, and I still don’t think we are there yet,” Mr Garnett said. “We’ve now got a real opportunity to make it the big showpiece that the industry wants,” he added.

More details about 100% Optical’s digital event are set to be released in due course, and OT will provide an update with further information.

Mido: June 2021

Registration has opened for Mido 2021, due to take place between 5–7 June.

Announcing the opening of registration, Mido president, Giovanni Vitaloni, described the event as a “necessity.” He said: “It has come to symbolise the much-needed relaunch businesses are thirsting for.”

Speaking to OT, event organisers shared: “Mido is in tight contact with exhibitors who are enthusiastic about the opportunity to meet again and share thoughts and business in person.”

The event organisers have co-ordinated with the Foreign Ministry and Italian Trade & Investment Agency to develop and implement solutions to ensure safety. This has included rapid testing, temperature checks and continuous environmental sanitation. This also includes ‘green corridors,’ to secure a bilateral agreement for business travellers inbound and outbound from non-EU countries.

Last year, Mido announced it was dropping its traditional February dates to schedule a June 2021 show, aiming to secure the potential for peak international traffic.

“As in the innovative tradition of Mido, the 2021 edition will be different, with unavoidable changes to the structures of the pavilions,” Mr Vitaloni told OT. He emphasised that the event would be keeping its “international soul,” adding: “The spirit does not change.”

The event organisers suggested that the “fundamental role and value” of events for the eyewear industry was demonstrated in September with the avantgarde eyewear event, DaTE.

“The reaction of exhibitors and visitors was a recognition of courage and enthusiasm,” Mr Vitaloni shared, suggesting that the economic results had been “interesting.”

He added, however: “What mattered most was meeting, which gave an injection of confidence and optimism.”

For the future, we envision a gradual return to the profitable business opportunity that our annual gathering has assured increasingly in the last 50 years

A spokesperson for Mido

Alongside planning for the June event, Mido is also working to enhance digital access to make the event accessible for those unable to attend in person.

Mido launched its digital platform, MIDO4U, in March last year, allowing exhibitors to display their collections and aiming to make it simple for visitors to view products and contact suppliers.

“The new version of the MIDO4U platform is something that we’ve been working on and we count on it as a crucial instrument for making business,” Mr Vitaloni told OT, revealing that the improved platform will be presented in the next few weeks.

“The team is studying effective but simple tools that will allow Mido exhibitors and buyers to interact at the highest levels and do business virtually.”

Ahead of the June event, the Mido team has been working to support the industry through surveys, data collections and campaigns, with Mr Vitaloni suggesting these activities aim to “spur and support an industry that has fortunately remained always active albeit recording significant losses, especially in the sun sector.”

“For the future, we envision a gradual return to the profitable business opportunity that our annual gathering has assured increasingly in the last 50 years,” he added.

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