We are just weeks away from the premier optical trade show and conference in America, Vision Expo East, where over 22,000 of us will gather to network, teach, buy, learn, sell, recruit, wander, share, and party together in the city that never sleeps, New York City. Vision Expo is a wonderful experience that should be attended regularly to better understand this industry, whether you choose The Big Apple in March or Sin City in September, there is a magic to experiencing tens of thousands of industry colleagues all vying to make our business and the lives of our customers and patients ever better.
I believe that with my heart. There is a buzz to every industry gathering where with eyes and ears open you can learn to be a better optician, optometrist, manager, buyer, seller, consultant, or human being. It is through Vision Expo where I met Robert Bell, who introduced me to Project Homeless Connect, where vision volunteers work so tirelessly to give the gift of vision. It is at Vision Expo where I met so many of my friends and colleagues. It is through the American Optometric Association conference where I have met and become friends with up and coming optometrists. I’ve attended and spoken at conferences large and small and have always walked away smarter and more energized for our business.
As many of you know, I just returned from my first MIDO Eyewear Show in Milan that took place last month from the 23rd through the 25th of February. I’ve heard about MIDO and SILMO for years. The stories were mostly about looking at products that are not yet sold in the United States and of course enjoying a nice Italian or French meal or two while doing so. In talking to one of my favorite persons in the world, Alexandra Peng, a woman who owns TC Charton, a successful frame and sunglasses company that I met through volunteering at Project Homeless Connect, and a sponsor of The Optical Vision Site. Alexandra convinced me I was missing out not visiting MIDO. So I spent weeks looking around online and speaking with a travel agent until I found a deal that I could afford and bought the tickets. Alexandra is also the one who convinced me to come to Cuba during her photo shoot. I am beginning to believe she gets a kickback from the travel websites I use.
I planned my trip for months… power converters, travel pillows, a new suitcase, booking tours of famous art museums and iconic landmarks both before and after the MIDO. I even started trying to learn Italian in the car during my commute. I flew over to Milan a couple of days before the show started and settled into my apartment near the area called City Life where many tall office buildings and a shopping mall are being built. Just two blocks from the Metro, this seemed a great location, especially for the price I paid. The next day I toured the massive Duomo Cathedral (yes, I know they both mean the same thing), the Sforza Castle, and Davinci’s Last Supper. It was great to experience some Renaissance culture before seeing some of the best in optical culture.
MIDO started Saturday morning, February 23rd. The lines to get in were long as everyone and everything goes through a metal detector. Having passed through several airport screenings as well as those for the Duomo and the Last Supper made me a seasoned pro at this, but still, it raised the anxiety of seeing what lay ahead, having never been to a MIDO before.
What did lay ahead were 7 pavilions of everything optical. Yes, 7 huge buildings each roughly half the size of the Javits Center. You read right. MIDO covers over 3 times the space Vision Expo East covers and those who walk Vision Expo every year have never complained the space is too small. AS awesome as most of us think a Vision Expo is, the sheer size of MIDO makes VEE seem quite petite by comparison.
More importantly, a huge majority of the booth spaces are spectacular. The designs, the displays, the looks, the ambiance, the merchandising take things up a number of notches from you are used to seeing. It is for this reason alone any shop or practice owner should make a trip to MIDO sometime soon.
Even if you don’t purchase one new line of eyewear. Even if you don’t purchase a new edger. Even if you don’t buy sunglasses, cases, cloths, supplies, lenses, or readers, taking in the displays and merchandising of MIDO is well worth long flight on a cramped airliner. You will see so many ways to make your stores and your store windows be that much more appealing to your patients and customers. You will see new ways to make in-store displays that will more than make you embarrassed anyone ever considered frame boards as something any optical should do.
MIDO is a feast for the eyes, the ears, and your sense of touch. In speaking with many an ECP there, they seconded my feelings that MIDO is worth the time to see for yourself.
That is not to say you should forgo Vision Expo by any means. Vision Expo provides formal education unmatched anywhere and pop-up seminars that should pique the interest of anyone involved in optical young or old. No, there is very much a place for Vision Expo East and West and those shows get better every year.
Visiting Milan and MIDO take us out of our comfort zone of doing the same thing every year, seeing the same booths and displays and taking a fresh new look at things from a new angle and a new perspective. You are also sure to run into friends new and old too!
February 29 – March 2nd, 2020.
Be sure to check out our video stories from MIDO next week on this site as we replay all our Facebook live videos.