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  • Writer's pictureLFaits

Optometry Conferences and Trade Shows: My First Hand Experience and Advice

Over the last 2 years, I’ve had the privilege of attending Optometry’s Meeting (OM) in Chicago and San Diego, Vision Expo East (VEE) in New York, Vision Expo West (VEW) in Vegas, the South Eastern Congress of Optometry (SECO) in Atlanta and the Congressional Advocacy Conference (CAC) in Washington, D.C. A lot of students don’t give much thought or are really aware of the opportunity to attend these hugely beneficial conferences. Here’s my take on why you should attend a few conferences as an optometry student, and how each one is different.


How these conferences work:

You can usually find a decent deal on registration and hotel as long as you start planning early. The centerpiece of each conference is usually the exhibit hall and features frame companies, equipment dealers, websites, specialty products, and more. Throughout the show, there is a wide variety of continuing education courses–FREE for students–on topics such as clinical advice to business and marketing. There are also various events and parties to attend, some educational with a complimentary lunch/dinner and networking included.

Optometry’s Meeting

This is the meeting that is most synonymous with students, which is what sets it apart from the others. It’s held in a different city each year. It has events such as the

student bowl

Vision Expo East

As far as the sheer size of this international conference, no other can even compare. Held every year in New York, the exhibit hall is absolutely amazing. Want a worldly, well-rounded view of every aspect of the profession, one that you won’t get in your school’s lecture halls and clinic? Go to VEE.  Cutting edge technology, business, eyewear, medical companies, huge elaborate exhibits, a model runway show displaying the latest trends in eyewear… this is one

Vision Expo East

Vision Expo West

Held in Las Vegas every year, it’s the same concept as VEE, just on a smaller scale. If you’re on the West Coast and can’t make it out to NYC for VEE, VEW is a good alternative. They have plenty of CE’s and offer more for students every year. Also, it’s VEGAS!

South Eastern Congress of Optometry (SECO)

You may not have heard of this one (known as SECO, pronounced ‘see-ko’), but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Organizers are making a conscious effort to get students involved and offer more networking with optometrists. They had good deals on hotels and gave a $100 cash stipend to help with food and travel. I found that the concept of ‘southern hospitality’ rang true during my trip. I had many conversations with optometrists, who offered advice (and sometimes a future job!). Also, school representatives, non-profit groups and industry professionals took more time to have a chat, educate us and offer their perspective. They also had an awesome concert event (80’s theme with Journey and a costume contest!) and parties to attend at night.

Congressional Advocacy Conference

This conference is the most important of all of them. Optometry wouldn’t be where it is today if it

Senator Boozman

Overall, I’d say these conferences give you a taste of the real world. They round out your experience as a student and better prepare you to be successful in practice. One quick piece of advice for CE classes, at least what I like to do: attend as many business classes as possible. This aspect of optometry is not touched on nearly enough in school, so take advantage of free advice that successful OD’s and experts give. Remember, there are still tons of other fantastic conferences out there!! I plan on attending the AAO and COVD within the next year or two. Have any further advice on these conferences? Which ones have you attended? Please don’t hesitate to comment below!


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