An interactive virtual community: 100% Optical Online 2021
The online event, held between 23–24 May, launched a new platform for the industry show that will continue to be built upon in the future
Two days at the end of May saw optometrists, dispensing opticians, contact lens opticians and practice support staff from across the UK log on from their kitchen tables, spare rooms and practices to join 100% Optical Online.
Sharing insights from the show, organiser Media 10, said that 1800 delegates joined the event.
Commenting on the show, Nathan Garnett, event director, said: “We all missed meeting and catching up at the show, but this was a very effective way for people to learn and chat, connect with suppliers and see what is happening in optics.”
Garnett shared that attendees seemed “at ease” with the technology, adding: “They enjoyed the mix of fashion shows, business advice and clinical learning.”
Hosted via the SwapCard platform, the virtual show offered eye care professionals an opportunity to connect. As well as hosting education sessions and presentations, the platform enabled delegates to book meetings with suppliers and meet with other attendees through a system powered by artificial intelligence.
The event brought together over 50 brands and suppliers, presenting eyewear and equipment. Event sponsors included Bausch + Lomb, Hoya and Ocuco, along with Optos, who showcased its range of ultra-widefield imaging devices. Exhibiting company, Essilor, launched its Vision Station-700 at the event, while UltraVision made its 100% Optical debut, highlighting its Seed 1dayPure EDOF daily disposable contact lens.
In a departure from previous years in light of the new virtual format, the 100% Optical Catwalk went remote, presented as a series of fashion shows filmed in four locations around London.
Displaying a selection of the latest frames, the shows featured six companies, 17 brands and 32 frames. Frames included Wolf Eyewear’s colourful range of spectacles, bold and oversized styles from Dita, and eye-catching acetate frames from Paul Smith Eyewear.
It was great to have so many people online and interactive, getting involved with the debates in the live discussion rooms, and talking to suppliers during the day
Bringing together all modes of practiceThe first day of the show was dedicated to education, with an AOP-led programme of seven sessions, each offering an interactive CET point.
Garnett said of the sessions: “The speaker programme that the AOP delivered for us had amazing feedback from the attendees. It was great to have so many people online and interactive, getting involved with the debates in the live discussion rooms, and talking to suppliers during the day.”
The programme included a session from the AOP’s clinical negligence team on spotting the red flag signs and symptoms of intracranial tumours, along with sessions on myopia, the role of the tear film in relation to the health of the ocular surface, and dry eye.
Lectures also explored retinal imaging modalities and contemporary approaches to subjective refraction.
Commenting on the education programme, Dr Ian Beasley, AOP head of education and OT’s clinical editor, said: “The AOP-led education stream delivered a platform to bring together practitioners from all modes of practice to learn, engage with expert speakers and earn valuable interactive CET points in the final year of the cycle.”
Recordings of the CET sessions will remain on the platform for eye care professionals to revisit or catch up on. No CET points are available for viewing the presentations on demand.
Beasley continued: “The AOP’s attention will now focus on building its extensive programme of education for the face-to-face 100% Optical event in January 2022 which will gently ease practitioners into the transition to the General Optical Council’s new CPD scheme.”
In the meantime, the AOP has a full programme of events for members to take advantage of during the last year of the CET cycle, with a combination of virtual peer discussions, clinical webinars and tailored content for key groups such as students, locums and independent practitioners. This includes a new webinar series launched with a focus on upskilling the whole practice team.
In business: from design to e-commerceThe second day of the show saw a variety of presentations focused on key business and practice management topics.
Andy Clark, director of Practice Building, spoke to attendees about how to increase the lifetime value of each patient and create a more profitable way of working, and also explored the qualities of the best managers in optics for an additional session dedicated to practice owners and managers.
Clark said: “There are two types of practice emerging from the stress of practising quality optometry in a lockdown,” suggesting this includes those who are longing to return to the norms of 2019, and those who don’t want to return to their previous way of working.
Discussing why it is important for practices to reflect on their processes after the challenges of the past year, Clark told OT: “People tend to do things in the way that is most familiar to them, they like the security of longstanding routine and when these routines have been passed on from one generation to the next then these habits are extremely hard to challenge and almost unbreakable. Even when they no longer make a great deal of sense.
“The pandemic has taken many of these legacy systems and stopped them dead, so the silver lining to this cloud is that practice owners can now choose to innovate instead of reverting to the old ways.”
The pandemic has taken many of these legacy systems and stopped them dead, so the silver lining to this cloud is that practice owners can now choose to innovate instead of reverting to the old ways
Dean Waugh, founder and creative director of Retail Experience Design, also explored the potential for practices to adapt. Despite the challenges for High Streets in the past year, Waugh suggested: “The optical retail landscape stands firm, with the industry predicted to record volume growth again in 2021.”
Presenting a session on Increasing practice revenue with effective retail design, Waugh shared: “Over the last five years or so, I’ve seen a significant shift in the optical retail landscape and businesses now are starting to understand that it’s very important to carefully consider retail,” highlighting key retail design techniques.
Tackling the topic of e-commerce, Nathan Potts, digital development manager for OptiCommerce, spoke to attendees on why and how to market practices digitally, while Mark Robinson, video and digital marketing professional from Bellyflop, then offered a series of tips and tricks for marketing through video content. Highlighting research that suggests 92% of people seek out reviews or testimonials before committing to a purchase, and 79% of consumers say they have been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a video, Robinson shared advice on how to make a great video and what content to include – noting the importance of making it useful, helpful, and keeping it simple.
Fergus Murphy, head of Acuitas Sales, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) for Ocuco, spoke to attendees about the company’s practice management software, covering key features and how the solution has supported customers through the pandemic.
Recordings of the business-focused sessions will also be available to watch back through the On Demand feature on the 100% Optical Online platform.
Creating a community
Describing 100% Optical Online as a “long-term community building platform,” at a premier for the event, Garnett said: “We hope people see that this community, as it will become, could be a place that you can come back and use.”
Speaking to OT, Garnett explained that the platform provides the event organiser with something to build on and will remain in place “365 days a year, meaning people can go back to any of the content and watch on demand, as well as contact suppliers and arrange meetings with them.”
The event organiser previously suggested it intends to use the SwapCard platform in tandem with future live 100% Optical events.
“Although the world is opening up now, the move towards digital learning and interaction is here to stay so we are delighted we can provide that resource constantly going forwards,” Garnett continued, adding: “I see this as a great supplement to the exhibition in January, when people will be able to come back together after two very hard years.”
As planning now shifts towards the next event, Garnett highlighted that there is more to come from the 100% Optical team this year, telling OT: “We are delighted to continue working with the AOP to deliver world leading content to our followers. We've got exciting talks and education planned for the remainder of the year, so watch this space."
The next 100% Optical event will take place between 22–24 January 2022 at ExCel London.
CET in the spotlight: Why is your topic so important for optometrists?
OT heard from three CET session presenters about the reasons their area of focus is key for optometrists
Session: Red flags spell danger
Speaker: Dr Peter Hampson, clinical director of the AOP, and Efa Schmidt, AOP head of clinical negligence
“Thankfully most patient presentations in optometric practice aren’t life or death. However, this is one area where they could be, or at least the outcomes could be life-changing for the patient. We would like to reduce the risk of harm to patients without overburdening already busy practitioners.”
Session: Barriers to myopia management – an update
Speaker: Dr Manbir Nagra, optometrist, educator and researcher in myopia, contact lenses and health technologies
“Clinical care is rarely limited to clinical tasks such as refraction or fundus examination etc. Communication plays a central role. By appreciating the influences on our decision making and the views of parents, patients, and practitioners, we can make better informed decisions.”
Session: gO C The periphery
Speaker: Simon Browning, optometrist and lecturer
“We live in an age where patients expect higher standards of care, and they expect us to provide the highest standard. With the new technologies available, there is just no excuse for us not to access that level of care that our patients want. It's not just this area in the middle of the eye that is available to us. We're all getting older – populations are generally ageing – and so pathology is only going to increase. Myopia is on the rise, diabetes is on the increase. This is why we need to be looking at the whole retina.
“Traditionally the optometrists’ role was that of correcting visual errors with spectacles, contact lenses or refractive surgery, and looking for signs of disease in the eye. I would argue that there should be a fundamental change in our role as optometrists nowadays. As people live longer; we are there to preserve vision and this is a lifelong role for an optometrist.”