Want a Hot Exhibitor Ticket? BCAO’s OPTOFAIR is For You

By Paddy Kamen

The Optometrists of B.C. really know how to put on a trade show. I know, because I attended the latest British Columbia Association of Optometrists (BCAO) conference and OPTOFAIR on February 23rd at the Westin Bayshore Hotel on picturesque Coal Harbor in downtown Vancouver.

The event was hopping when I arrived at the OPTOFAIR in the early afternoon. Beautiful showgirls were in the lobby handing out specialty items in sync with the event’s Casino theme. And the lobby was full of booths, a signal that exhibit space was sold out. Indeed, the main room was packed with exhibitors from many sectors of the industry, from lab equipment to frames, contact lenses and accessories. There were also exhibitors from the ocular vitamin field, computer software, and buying groups. Newer companies mixed with those who had been around the trade show circuit many times.

Don Coulson would, I believe, qualify as someone who has plenty of experience with trade shows and I was delighted to catch up with him in Vancouver. Coulson wears at least three professional ‘hats’: he is vice president of sales for Optiq Frames and Match Eyewear Canada, in addition to serving as Canadian sales manager for Hilco Canada and On-Guard Safety. Said Coulson, “When I was working as a rep out of Alberta from 1986 to 1998, I covered parts of B.C. and in that capacity I attended the BCAO show many times over the years. I always enjoyed western Canadian optometry shows because the optometrists and assistants are all very engaged throughout the display times. The BCAO team does a very good job of encouraging attendance at each booth, which is important to us as suppliers. It allows us the opportunity to effectively present our products and services and hopefully to make a strong case for doing business with us.” 

Paul Storace, president and CEO of Alternative Eyewear and Plan B, has also been around the proverbial trade show block several times (but nonetheless just keeps looking younger). Storace noted, “The smaller venue made for a more personal show. We’ll definitely be back next year as I feel that it had value for me and we did gain some new clients.”

Both Coulson and Storace traveled from Ontario to attend the show.

Dr. Sureen Bachra is a member of OPTOFAIR’s organizing committee, a team composed of doctors and staff who dedicate their time to improving the show year after year. She met me at the registration desk and graciously showed me around. It was obvious that she was happy with the results of the committee’s work.

Post-show, Bachra commented: “This year’s OPTOFAIR was super-successful. The vendors enjoyed every aspect of the show from the registration process to the overall attendance. Booth allocation, show layout and food and beverage evaluations from the vendors were all positive. We were able to sell out the show again this year and expect to do the same for next year.”

What is the secret to this success? “Listening to what our vendors want,” Bachra explained.

This was the first time that OPTOFAIR was held at the Westin Bayshore location. “It felt more intimate for vendors and attendees alike,” said Bachra. “With the great raffle prizes, drinks and atmosphere this year, our colleagues all enjoyed the show and are looking forward to a bigger and better event in 2014.”

Kudos to the BCAO. We also hope to be back!