100% Optical

A decade of 100% Optical

Organisers reflect on what has changed and what is to come, as the 10th show approaches

What do the Apple Watch, Taylor Swift’s chart-topping hit, Shake it Off, and Marvel’s film franchise featuring a group of intergalactic misfits, Guardians of the Galaxy, all have in common?

Like 100% Optical, these all turn 10 years old in 2024.

The show was first held at Excel London on 16–18 February 2014, and has since evolved into the key optical event for eye care professionals in the UK.

“I feel we’ve reached where we wanted to be, when we had the vision for the show back in 2014,” Nathan Garnett, event director, told OT. “We’ve got really good representation of different sectors of optical suppliers, and the levels of attendance we aspired to – to have more than 10,000 people from this industry come to an event is fantastic.”

Celebrating a decade

Reflecting on that early vision for the trade show, Garnett shared: “We knew that we had to create an event that is a showpiece for the industry, and I think we’ve achieved that. Now it’s a case of keeping that improvement going, to keep making it bigger and better each year.”

Approaching the milestone 100% Optical in 2024, organisers have plans to recognise the 10-year celebration through a number of activities, including the Love Eyewear Awards, and a display of the past, present and future of optical equipment and technology.

Event evolution

Garnett shared that, over the 10 years that the show has been running, he has seen the growth of a more fashion-focused approach, from up-and-coming designers to optometry practices featuring independent and high-end brands.

When the event launched, organisers looked at the major optical shows in Europe, and saw a need for an event that explored the fashion and business side of eyewear in the UK, and Garnett said: “We feel there is plenty more we can do, such as bringing in more frames from around the world, trying to unearth those unique frames that can help opticians stand out.”

The technical and equipment areas of 100% Optical have seen a great deal of growth, which Garnett suggests is due to the fast-moving pace of technology and rapid introduction of new products, meanwhile, the contact lens sector has increasingly played a role in the event in recent years.

“It leaves us now looking at what is going to happen next,” he said.

A changing clinical landscape

The AOP has been a part of 100% Optical from its earliest beginnings.

Dr Ian Beasley, head of education and OT clinical editor, commented: “As the event’s official UK partner since its inception, this reflects the success of the symbiotic working relationship we have developed over this time, which draws upon the AOP’s strength in the sector combined with Media 10’s experience at delivering large-scale events.”

With the milestone year on the horizon, Beasley shared: “Being an integral part of the 10th anniversary allows the AOP and Media 10 to build upon the successes of previous events and showcase their ambitions in driving the event forward for the future.”

The education programme, provided by the AOP, has evolved significantly over the past decade, he noted, keeping pace with increasing visitor demand.

“The content has adapted over time to align to the changing clinical landscape, such as the emergence of artificial intelligence, developments in clinical imaging, tighter links between primary and secondary care, and the rise of myopia management to the forefront of mainstream practice,” Beasley explained.

“Of course, in recent times, we’ve had to be nimble in our approach to navigate the impact of COVID-19, and also adapt to the transition from CET to CPD as part of the GOC’s new scheme, which was introduced in 2022,” he added.

Planning for the 2024 show began almost as soon as the curtain fell on this year’s event, with preparations to deliver more than 140 sessions across the three days already in action.

“Delegates can expect a mix of keynote lectures, panel discussions, peer reviews and discussion workshops showcasing the latest topics to ensure that practitioners can consolidate and build upon their knowledge in areas of contemporary practice that are of relevance to them,” he shared.

Have you been attending 100% Optical since 2014? Get in touch with OT to share your stories from past shows at [email protected]