Here’s What A Vision Trade Show Looks Like When It’s Run For and By Independent ECPs and Brands
AFTER PLAYING VARIOUS “behind the scenes” roles in the industry, from logistics and sales to business development, Charlene Nichols realized there was a big gap in the market for providing business solutions to independent ECPs. In 2017, she ventured into entrepreneurship, marshalling a large network of independent labs, frame manufacturers and others to fill this gap. All this work led to the launch two years ago of My Vision Show, a platform that now hosts four virtual trade show events per year, facilitating B2B relationships, fostering educational programs and hosting events for ECPs to share knowledge.
Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands. Nichols had long understood the importance of trade shows, but as a new entrepreneur, “I could not find a physical trade show that fit my needs and budget” … so she built her own. Her vision was an online forum connecting business owners with entrepreneurs who could meet their particular needs.
After a period of trial and error, My Vision Show emerged in 2019 as a collaboration between Nichols and leading experts and influencers; together they come up with programming that meets the needs of her audience of independent ODs and opticians. The platform’s main virtual trade show area, the Arena, hosts virtual booths, and each show’s three- to four-day schedule includes sessions on topics ranging from sales and procurement strategies to independent eyecare biz development.
It also offers new brands a platform “where they can be heard and share their innovations with business owners that are looking for differentiators.”
Skeptics told Nichols a virtual trade show wouldn’t fly and questioned her timing (the first fully coordinated My Vison Show went live in March 2020) with two major industry shows also scheduled for the first quarter. Amid the COVID lockdown, however, it quickly became clear that My Vision Show was the only game in town.
The positive reception made Nichols realize the show could be even bigger than she’d envisioned. “My Vision Show has continued to evolve and take on a life of its own,” she says. The platform recently started live streaming events through its social media channels and a Facebook group, My Vision Show Connections. Most My Vision Show sessions are recorded and uploaded to YouTube, and some visitors are using them for office training.
An early challenge was growing the program organically without relying on sponsorship from “the large companies that notoriously sponsor our [industry’s] largest events.” (She shouts out two key collaborators who helped her achieve this: Ryan Markey and Irina Yakubin, OD.) But the real secret to the show’s success, she says, has been the independent brands that have invested in developing a virtual presence on the platform, pointing to Casanova Eyewear, Good-Lite, David Green, My Friend’s Lab, See Better Lab, Kirk & Kirk, and others. “It is stunning to realize how many of these brands, which I consider staples, are relatively undiscovered by many of our visitors,” Nichols says.
Nichols reckons every show doubles or triples in engagement. It has drawn over 2,000 visitors over the past nine shows. She adds, “To spend hours face to face with Jason Kirk, David Green, Robert Bell, Barry Santini, Stephen Fournier, David Pietrobon and on and on is an incredible reward.” Nichols raised one particularly gratifying case of an OD who attended the platform for most of the four days — a working, home-schooling mom who rarely got the chance to go to trade shows, for whom My Vision Show offered a rare opportunity.
Nichols’ goal now is to continue to expand My Vision Show, “so many others can gain a deeper insight into their industry and understand the incredible power we have together,” she says.
Do It Yourself: Use My Vision Show to Boost Your Biz Development
- IN CONTROL. Visitors to the Arena can breeze through the virtual booths and choose which exhibitors they want to meet or engage with. Sessions are available live or on demand.
- FOCUSED INTERACTIONS. Conversations on My Vision Show are intimate and often one-on-one, without the distractions of a noisy or crowded show floor.
- OMNI-CHANNEL. My Vision Show provides access to its content through many channels for greater flexibility; some can be replayed on YouTube.
- NOW OR NEVER. “The future of our industry is unfolding before our eyes,” says Nichols. “By connecting the industry of our past with the industry of our future, we will all emerge stronger together.”
- INTER-SECTORAL NETWORKING. Providing non-threatening introductions to all segments of the industry helps attendees understand all aspects of patient care.