A Hygienist’s Game Plan to Conquer Dental Conference Exhibit Halls

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Many dental conferences include an exhibit hall aspect. I have experienced exhibits big and small, and I absolutely love this part of any dental conference. Exhibit halls are your opportunity to sample new products, learn, network, and gain more resources to bring back to your job position.

Exhibit halls can sometimes be intimidating since much is happening, and a lot of communication needs to occur. When I began to attend conference exhibit halls, I used to just go up to booths and simply talk to the reps. It may surprise those who know me, but I was super shy. However, dental hygiene and networking have brought me out of my shell.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: Networking is so important. I have made lifelong friends just from networking. By doing this, you may learn something new or find a new resource to reach out to.

I have pronounced myself a master at getting dental hygiene samples, but it’s easiest and more efficient if you are organized and have to have a plan. Some considerations for your possible game plan are below.

1) Create a list of certain products, manufacturers, or companies you absolutely want to visit.

Your list can be a rough idea of booths you do not miss out on or forget to stop by. This will prevent you from missing out on a special promotion, giveaway, learning something new, or testing a new product.

2) Review the exhibit hall map beforehand.

A quick glance at the map can help you avoid walking around in circles when trying to find specific booths. Conferences and continuing education events now have a big online presence, so look at their websites and even their social media pages.

3) Use the conference’s mobile app.

Many larger conferences have mobile apps where you can select the booths you want to visit and see the exhibit hall. These apps also include event and course information, such as room numbers.

4) Scan QR codes and business cards.

Collecting a company’s or individual’s business cards allows you to follow up with further questions, to get more information, or to continue the conversation. More and more conferences are going paperless, and some people may not even have physical business cards.

I’ve seen individuals using QR codes for you to scan to share contact information, promotions, or product resources. You could do this yourself, too. Creating your own QR code would save you the cost of purchasing business cards or losing them when you travel. QR codes can be printed out, found right on your phone, or in other creative ways, such as a keychain.

5) Be open to visiting new booths.

Of course, I have my go-to booths, but it never stops there. There is always something new in dentistry, so why not continue to evolve your career and abilities? That brand new thing could be the next big thing you use at your job!

6) Do not be afraid to ask.

This may be interpreted as asking a question to the representative at the booth or asking to take a sample or swag from the table. The promotional items are there for attendees, so do not feel bad about asking to take one.

But do ask questions about their products, conference specials, research on their product, or advice about using it in practice. I have spoken to many individuals working booths who have said that some people just grab a handful of whatever is on their table and run off.

7) Be polite to the representatives working the booths.

This tip might be obvious, but it is worth being mindful of. For example, be patient and wait for a rep to finish doing their presentation to someone else instead of just grabbing products and then taking off. Or, allow the rep to do their quick product presentation for you. Otherwise, you may not have the full information needed to gain a full understanding and move the conversation forward.

Also, keep in mind that some reps may not have firsthand clinical experience as dental professionals. They are in the dental sales/promotion space and are constantly learning about our field and world.

8) Talking to reps at the booth equals networking!

I have met so many amazing people by walking up to their booths. This is also a great chance for job searching. By doing this, I have built up my professional network. This is one of my favorite parts of the exhibit halls!

In Closing

These strategy tips can be helpful for those who want to be very efficient with their time or may only have a limited amount of time to visit the exhibit hall. It is definitely okay to wing it, too. I am not saying to map out every single second you are on the exhibit hall floor, but have a rough idea of what booths you want to visit and where they are.

Sometimes, walking up to a booth and not knowing what to do next can be intimidating. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable, but it does help you grow. That’s what happened to me when I first entered the profession. Doing that has allowed me to break out of my shell.

You can take a lot away from visiting the booths, regardless of whether the exhibit hall is big or small. You will definitely take away something. I highly recommend planning some time out of your conference schedule to stop by the exhibit hall and, of course, get those free samples!

Before you leave, check out the Today’s RDH self-study CE courses. All courses are peer-reviewed and non-sponsored to focus solely on pure education. Click here now.

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Kaitlyn Machado, RDH, BS, MEd, FADHA
Since a very young age, Kaitlyn Machado, RDH, BS, MEd, FADHA, has always wanted to be a dental hygienist. She was the youngest student to graduate from her dental hygiene class in 2017. Since then, Kate has returned for her bachelor's and master's degrees. She is a faculty member at her local dental hygiene school and a clinical dental hygienist. Kate has been a part of Today's RDH since its launch. She is extremely passionate about homecare, loves her prophy paste and fluoride varnish, and enjoys attending professional conferences. In addition, Kate loves to work with a local non-profit organization that helps fight against hygiene insecurity of all ages in her community. As a lifelong learner, she enjoys being as involved as possible in the dental hygiene profession. When Kate isn't working, she enjoys traveling, sports, watching movies, and spending time with her amazing, supportive family.