2024 SightCare Conference Wrapsup

SiteCare 2023 Awards Ceremony

SightCare held its flagship annual 2 Day conference on January 28th and 29th, 2024 at Telford International Centre. Once again, independent practice owners and their teams enjoyed the opportunity to network and learn through a program of keynote speakers, hands-on workshops, lectures, and peer group meetings. This year there was a particular emphasis on giving the whole practice team the opportunity to share, learn, and take away new ideas to improve their performance and make a difference to their patients.

Running an independent optometry practice involves more than just clinical expertise; it requires effective business management. The conference kicked off on a Sunday afternoon with a vibrant peer-to-peer learning workshop on creating the perfect patient experience. Facilitated by SightCare Directors Sukie Woodhouse and Abi Page, delegates shared their ideas on how to improve the patient journey. From the initial contact, through the welcome, the examination, dispensing and follow-up care.

Nicole Croft from Croft and Graves Opticians said “It was a really great session. Although we have all looked at our patient journeys before, the experiences shared still gave great new takeaways to implement and push forward our businesses”.

The afternoon was followed up with the first awards of our industry in 2024, the SightCare Awards,  which celebrates the success and hard work of the independent sector. Delegates enjoyed a street food bonanza, after which the award-winning blind Scottish comedian, Jamie MacDonald, entertained and warmed up the audience.

The awards themselves featured 28 shortlisted practices, contesting in categories such as, Customer Service Excellence won by Buchanan Optometrists, Practice Team won by Brownbills Optometrists, Sustainable Practice Jonathan Partridge Optometrists, Marketing Excellence won by Feltham Eyecare, Community Practice won by Simpson Optometrists, and Frame Styling Practice won by VIP Eyewear. Many of the practices featured displayed unique and innovative ways of serving their patients and everyone enjoyed the celebration.

Picking up the Independent Practice of the Year award was Michael Offord Optometrist from Kingston Park, Newcastle UponTyne, going one better after being a runner-up in our own  2023 Optician Awards.

Of particular note was A J Rawling Opticians of Ipswich, who despite hoping to win the Independent Practice of the Year award, received the SightCare Special Achievement Award, after celebrating 100 years of providing eyecare to their local community.

SightCare Chief Executive, John French, said: “Entering awards is always good for business. It is an opportunity to inspect, dissect, and correct your business from the inside out. The SightCare Awards enable its member practices to look retrospectively, currently, and in the future at all aspects of their business, and to highlight areas in which they want to improve, grow and develop.”

The conference on Monday kicked off with delegates gathering in the exhibition hall to catch up with friends and suppliers. The vibe in the room was one of excitement as delegates from as far away as Northern Ireland, Aberdeen, and Cornwall met up with fellow practitioners to talk about the independent sector. Networking is invaluable in any industry, and the SightCare Conference offers a prime platform for independent opticians to connect with their peers, suppliers, and experts.

Over 40 exhibitors, all supporters of the independent sector and partners in the SightCare Buying Group, showed off their latest products and innovations, from equipment, contact lenses, and of course their eyewear collections.

After opening the Conference, SightCare Chairman Martin White introduced the morning keynote speaker, Stephen Sykes. Sustainability is always top of the agenda these days and the opening keynote “Climate Crisis – Why is it my problem”, did not disappoint. Stephen is co-chair of St Helens Climate Commission and an independent expert raising awareness of the impact of Climate Change. His talk explored a number of climate-related issues, including the impact of climate change on independent practices today and some interesting insights into how NHS requirements might shape how practices may need to adapt in the future.

After more catching up in the exhibition, delegates headed off in all directions and the round of specialized workshops kicked off. There were twelve workshops in all, six before and six after the lunch break. Topics included:-

Pricing for Success, facilitated by David Samuel, the group explored how to use price strategically in their businesses. The session included an interesting social experiment that explored how price presentation can impact the customer’s perception of value. In Garry Kousoulou session on Navigating Social media, the art of using technology to increase Google reviews was greeted enthusiastically by practitioners and staff alike. “I wish I knew now what I have just found out in there”, chirped one delegate as they left Carole Fossey’s session on “How to hire great people and grow your practice”.

On a more practical level, the sessions on Myopia Management, delivered by Pam Robertson, Glasses Styling workshop run by Julie Young and the hands-on Spectacle Maintenance Workshop run by Rob Burrows, were all well attended and enjoyed by the optometrists, dispensing opticians and optical assistants attending those sessions.

Peter Greedy’s session on Building High Performing Teams complemented the earlier session on recruiting the right people. Due to popular demand, the spectacle maintenance workshop was repeated and sessions on effective patient recall and unlocking the potential of AI were well attended. Alisdair Buchanan from Buchannan Optometrists, fresh off the back of winning Technology Practice of the Year, presented a session on masterminding your way to private practice, a very hot topic in today’s world. Practice owners, discussed and shared their own ideas and Alisdair shared his story of how he developed his own successful private practice and how to charge properly for your expertise and knowledge.

With each delegate attending two different workshops, deciding which to attend seemed to be a challenge for some. Lisa Laurent of VIP Eyewear, a relatively new SightCare member told me, “This conference is awesome, I am so glad I bought the team, as we can split up, cover all of the sessions and share our learnings back in the practice”.

SightCare membership manager Stacey Mead said that the team had been “working hard to secure the right speakers to add value to the members”. The hard work clearly paid off as they curated an impressive line-up that would grace any optical event.

What was noticeable, is the speakers they chose have both the knowledge and experience. As Nishi Maini of Surrey Opticians told me “It’s all well and good listening to expert speakers, but it is even more valuable when you know the person talking to you has walked the walk and understands the challenges facing independent practices today”.

The closing keynoter speaker was kept under close wraps until the day when SightCare unveiled international speaker and best-selling author, Richard McCann. Richard, founder of the iCan Academy, touched on a variety of themes including dealing with change, taking personal responsibility, leadership, appreciating what you have, and inspired the delegates to take action on improving their businesses and relationships.

John French closed the two-day conference saying: “The SightCare conference has once again demonstrated what differentiates the independent practice team from the rest. That is your ability to be agile and responsive to changes in the market. By coming together as a community you are learning, sharing, and developing strategies to meet your evolving customer needs and market conditions. “


About SightCare

SightCare, the UK’s leading provider of business and networking services to independent opticians, has 33 years of experience supporting independent practices and is committed to offering maximum value and forming dependable relationships with its members and partners.

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