#17 – Attends State Dental Association Annual Meeting

Who are you?

You will meet 3 types of people at every dental meeting.

1. Learners – easy to spot; asking questions, making notes
2. Prisoners – don’t want to be there, but going with the flow.
3. Vacationers – Ok to be there, but their minds are elsewhere

We try to create the highest value for our clients of any practice within an hour’s drive. To meet this goal we use an incredible number of products, equipment, new technology, and diagnostic services. We must also update our practice management and marketing techniques. Everyone needs to work on understanding their level materials better.

There are many ways for you to stay current. Reading dental journals, joining a professional society or, attending seminars. These take much time and may or may not provide you dental information you are interested in. That’s the value of the state dental meeting. It offers something for everyone. The salesmen at the booths are there to educate you. The more you understand how their products and/or services will help you, the better the chance you’ll buy from them.

Every year in October, the American Dental Association holds its annual meeting. Until now you’ve attended The State Dental Association annual meeting and shared what you’ve learned with your team. Now, as a reward for the extra effort and training it takes to become a team leader, you’ll travel with the Dr. and the other team leaders to the ADA meeting. This meeting is rotated around the major cities of the U.S.

Beginning the first week of September, go online at and click on annual meeting. Print out a list of booth numbers for all venders. Now review your notes from the State Dental Association meeting. Hopefully, you’ve answered many of your team’s concerns and seen most of the products, technology that interested you. Due to the cost for us to attend this meeting, the rest of the staff won’t attend. This makes it very important for you to find out all of your team’s ideas.

The meeting extends over several days usually Thursday through Sunday. According to the location, we usually fly in the day before the meeting. This allows us to get settled in and rested so we are fresh for the first day. We will pay for your flight, lodging, meals, and ADA sponsored entertainment. I recommend you take 1 suitcase and 1 shoulder bag/carry on. You can take this bag with you to the meeting to put everything you accumulate as you tour the booths.

It takes 2-3 full days to see the exhibits. The salesmen at the exhibits will discuss your practice with you. Each presentation will be personalized for you. You’ll be surprised at how much you know!

Before the meeting – Follow this schedule

A. 5 weeks before the meeting – team leaders discuss ideas with their teams to prepare for the
state dental meeting

B. 4 weeks before – team leaders organize a list of equipment and supplies to evaluate/purchase which are given to the Dr. She will put together our wish list to evaluate/ purchase at the Dental Association annual meeting.

C. 3 weeks before – Team discuss what they learned at the state meeting and want to focus on at ADA

D. 1 week before – give your ideas to the Dr.

1. What articles do you need answers to?
2. What office problems would you like to solve? Get information from our vendors. They may have ideas for you. They frequently know what’s happening in dentistry around the country. Tell them to expect you at the meeting. Ideally get a contact name that will be at the vendor’s booth.
3. What materials, supplies, or new products/technology do you want to evaluate?
4. What major opportunities are we facing in our practice this year? Who at the ADA meeting could help us improve how we will meet this challenge?
5. What new skills do you want to learn? Who or what at the ADA meeting can help you?
6. Go online and print a list of locations and exhibitors
7. You will be pre-registered by mail to save waiting in lines.
8. Decide on who you are going to walk around the exhibits with. Dr. will usually go with the leaders of the hygienists and the chairsides. The administrator will go with the secretary team leader.
9. The evening before, talk to others so everyone shares their notes and handouts.
10. Have at least 5 major questions you want answered and give copy to the Dr.

Packing and Travel

Evening before the meeting

According to our flight we usually arrived at our hotel, clean up, rest a little, and then have dinner together. Although this is an exceptional learning experience, it’s also a lot of fun. We’re a good group, we’re in a great city, there are many exciting people to meet, will have at least 1 evening at the ADA sponsored event, and it’s a great change of pace from a normal week.
We can’t help but learn a lot, so now that all the plans are finished and we’ve finally arrived, prepare to enjoy yourself.

The day of the meeting

1. Dress comfortably. Wear layers. The room is usually too hot or too cold. Wear comfortable shoes.
2. Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
3. Make sure you’ve given your spouse, sitter, etc. your cell phone number in case of emergency.
4. Take a folder organizer
a. inside front cover-inventory
b. organize all flyers, from vendors in booth order
c. have 1 page in pencil, listing all venders you want to see and what interest you
d. couple blank sheets for notes in the back

At the meeting- day 1

Wake up! Give yourself plenty of time. As you know, Dr.  can’t stand to think the events of the day could be starting without him. We usually have breakfast together at least 1 hour before the meeting opens. We usually stay at the closest hotel, so that it’s any easy walk to the meeting. This way we avoid wasting a lot of time waiting on the ADA provided buses. Dr.  will review any special events that may interest you today. Be sure to have your list of what you want to accomplish. You will be responsible for finding out your information and sharing it with everyone at lunch. We always start at the lowest numbered booths and proceed up and down each aisle in order. That way if you lose track of each other, you’ll find them again quickly. There will be times when you should separate, for instance if someone wants to spend more time with a vendor. Go ahead. We’ll all have our cell phones.

One of the best parts of the meeting is the opening ceremonies which are in the convention center. You’ll be greeted by the president of the ADA and then welcomed by the city that’s hosting us. This welcome is always fun-after all they hope we’ll come back with our families and visit again sometime! Finally, we’ll get to hear the speaker. This is where you’ll feel the differences between a state and national meeting. This speaker is always someone you’ve read and heard about on national news talk shows. When the opening ceremonies are over, we’ll leave the hall and everyone will go to either courses or the exhibit hall.

Exhibit hall

1. Bring your cell phone to keep track of time and to stay in communication.
2. Compare prices for best buys on key items. Bring your copy of the computer inventory. If you find something you’d like to try, see if they’ll give you a 30 day free trial. You can then go ahead and order it, but be sure the Dr. knows (and you keep track) of your deal.
3. Meet people. Make contacts. Contact friends/associates and plan to meet them there. Talk to staff members in other offices. Discuss their problems and successes.
4. Have a good time. Wander around. The Convention Center is an interesting place.
5. Take your notebook. Write your ideas down. Don’t try to remember all those great ideas.
6. How can we be more productive, make more money, reduce our overhead expenses?
7. Any new fun ideas?
8. Ideas on improving “team” spirit and effectiveness.
9. Make acquaintances. Put a name with a face with a company. So and so works for ____________ company and does ____________. This may be helpful to you in solving a problem in the future. Make notes. Save business cards. These can be great contacts over the coming years.
10. Use your “Guide to Exhibitors” map and index. This is an easy way to know how to get around the exhibition hall and find the exhibitor you want to talk with. Put your name tag on the right side – easier for others to read.
11. Don’t forget the table clinics! Although none are open the first day, the dental hygienists, exhibitors, and dentists will be making these presentations in a separate area on other days. If these are available, tour the clinics. These clinics occasionally show some of the newest ideas and technology. Once you are aware of these ideas, you can look for them on the exhibit floor.
12. There will be a lot of early activity at the first booths inside the door. Make a note and come back to them later. Later you can talk to these people very easily. Go slow. Take your time. Make notes. Compare notes from exhibitor to exhibitor. You can always go back and check your facts later. Write your notes on the sales literature.
13. Ask these questions at each booth (Plan on 5 minutes/booth, unless your getting great ideas. Exhibitors can ramble. Sometimes it helps to write these questions in your organizer.
a. What’s new this year? Why did you bring it out? Do you have evidence of your claims?
b. What should I know about?
c. What specials are you running for the meeting?
14. Be polite to the exhibitors. Look at them: attractive booths, expensive literature, well groomed attractive, friendly sales people. These companies are there not only there to sell you something, but also to learn from you. This is their most effective marketing experience all year. Talk with them, Share your ideas. Have fun.
15. Bring a supply of business cards to give out. Store them in your badge holder.
16. Get a big bag to fill with all the freebies. Don’t be shy. If you want to try a product, tell the salesperson. They’ll give you samples. Enjoy. If you don’t want to carry, ask them to send some samples to you.
17. If you see a product you think we should purchase, call Dr. Smith or check with the group when we get together.
18. EFDA’s and hygienists can request “hands on” experience with various materials. Try them out. Don’t be shy.
19. Collect lots of handouts. Stuff them in your bag. Review them when you get back to your room. Bring the “good ones” to evening meal.
20. Look for the message. Most booths have a key point that they stress. Be sure you understand it.
21. Ask about free seminars that the vendor will provide for us in our office.
22. Ask exhibitors what they know about other dental practices in our area.
23. Listen closely to the exhibitors presentations to others while you are waiting to talk with them. You often will learn as much as they answer someone else’s questions as if you were talking to the exhibitor yourself.
24. Participate in demonstrations. Mix materials. Try the technology. Use the computers. Don’t be shy.
25. Develop contacts with knowledgeable exhibitors. Get their business cards.
26. Eat your lunch 15 minutes early or late. Everyone starts to line up at 11:45. You can waste 15-20 minutes in line. You would waste even more time searching for an outside restaurant, so we have purchased a box lunch for you. Try to hook up with everyone so we can discuss anything we should evaluate.
27. Make a note of booth number where you finished.

Share your notebook ideas with the others as you see them.

Great conversation for vendors we work with: Review the products we are currently purchasing from them, ask if there are any new products they are offering that we should be aware of, are there any promotional prices/deals available at the show.

Attending a lecture

Although we’ll usually spend our time at the exhibits, you may see several courses that you’d like to sit in on. Don’t worry! Dr. usually buys a DVD from the ADA of all the presentations. The handouts are available online as well.
If you do decide to go to a presentation get permission from Dr. first. Take good notes to share with everyone later.
Here are some tips:
1. Sit in the first two rows of the room. You will be able to see slides, diagrams better. You’ll be able to make eye contact with the speaker so your questions will be answered more quickly. You can hear more clearly. You will feel more like the speaker is talking to you. Put your notebook on your seat to reserve it. Now go get some orange juice, etc. and get comfortable.
2. If you aren’t sure you want to stay for the entire lecture or you feel you may need several bathroom breaks, sit further back and on the aisle next to an exit door.
3. Get a copy of the lecturer’s notes before you sit down. During the presentation, make notes on the lecturer’s notes. This holds your attention to what the speaker is saying. Write your own questions at the top of your notebook. This way you won’t forget them. Don’t try to take extensive notes. Look for an interesting idea, and write them down the action it suggests. At break, visit other lecture rooms and get copies of their lecture notes too. Don’t be selective, get them all.
4. If the speaker wants some audience participation, participate. Be enthusiastic.
5. If the speaker allows questions, ask your questions that fit into the flow of his presentation.
6. At the break, use the bathroom, get something to drink, and then get your list of questions and discuss them with the speaker. Usually speakers make themselves available at these breaks. These questions help them to get a feel for how well the audience understands their presentations. Take notes on their answers.
7. If the speaker isn’t available, talk to the people from around you. Learn what they think, make friends. Try these questions:
a. What sessions have you attended? What did you learn?
b. What are you most excited about in your practice right now?
c. Any particular vender I should see?

After first day’s meeting

Go back to your room, clean up and get some rest. Plan to have dinner with everyone. We try to eat within walking distance of our hotel, but its part of the experience to pick a nice spot. You may want to go to the ADA reception area a restaurant booth where people can give you ideas on where to eat that evening.
Although we’ll spend a lot of time talking about our day, this is usually a good time to “wind down.” Once the meal is complete, some may want to go “out on the town”, while the more experienced group returns to the hotel.

Day 2

This is a repeat of Day1- except now you’re used to what’s going on.
1. Review your notes from day 1. There may be a few booths that you’d like to go back to. It’s usually better to wait until day3 when you’ll probably finish all the booths and have time to go to all these venders that need a second look.
2. Bring your binder to breakfast. Tell everyone what you’re particularly hoping to do today.
3. When the exhibit doors open, go back to the booth you stopped at yesterday and enjoy the day
4. Plan on lunch with everyone.
5. At the end of the day, we’re in for a fun evening! Usually on the evening of the second day we all go to the special ADA sponsored event. These are always a good time. The dress is casual and the food is good. We’ll be taken to the event by bus and there will be buses leaving periodically to take you back to our hotel when you are ready. Some will go back earlier than others.
6. From the discussions last night, are there any booths we want to look for especially today?
7. After you get back, go ahead and pack. Leave out what you’ll need tomorrow, but you won’t have time to do your packing tomorrow.

Day 3

This is the last day of the conference. Usually by now we’re glad there’s no day 4. We’re tired. Our feet are sore. Our heads are packed with information. It’s time to wrap up the meeting and go home. Before or after breakfast, take your suitcase to the hotel’s storage area. Usually, we won’t be leaving until well after checkout, so you won’t have time to get back to the hotel while we’re involved in the conference.
Today is a repeat of day 2. You’ll finish all the exhibits today. Then you may have several booths you want to return to. At breakfast everyone should discuss their needs. You may go by yourself or there may be others that may want to go with you.
Sometimes we’ll be flying out toward the end of the day. Be sure to pace yourself so you finish everything you need to do.
If you finish, and we’ve still got time, call around on your cell phone and see who you’d like to go around with until we leave.
We’ll all leave together to return to the hotel. Get our luggage and head for the airport. I usually keep all the “stuff” I’ve accumulated at the meeting in my carry on so I can review the meeting on the way home. It makes the flight home quicker and I’m not as far behind when I get home.

After the ADA meeting is finished

1. When you return home, review your notes. Complete any partial thoughts. Make sure everything makes sense.
2. Use your notes to make a list of the ideas you want to try. Put it away and review it the next day to make sure your ideas still make sense to you.
3. When you return to the office, make sure that you discuss what you have learned at the next team leader meeting. What changes should we make in the office based on what you learned? Create an action plan to implement your ideas.

When I attend a seminar, I think it’s great when I can generate 2 – 3 ideas each half day. I can’t pay you for just sitting in a classroom, but I can pay you for having good ideas and getting them implemented into the practice. Also now that the ADA has many of the courses available on DVD I’d like you to watch 2 of them, make good notes, and share them with Dr.  These DVD’s are usually not available until about 3 weeks after the meeting.

The trick is getting the ideas implemented into the practice. People prefer predictable routines. Change is uncomfortable. Your best bet in getting the staff to use your ideas is to be open minded and use ideas other staff members suggest to you.