The much-anticipated, inaugural O=Mega19 optical fair and conference opened to a queue of attendees on a bright but cold, winter’s day in Melbourne on 19 July.
Tucked as far away as humanly possible from the main entrance of the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre, the fair attracted a steady stream of visitors throughout its three days, boosted by an intermittent deluge of conference delegates at carefully designed times.
Replacing Optometry Victoria’s Southern Regional Congress (SRC) and the biennial Optical Distributors & Manufacturers Association of Australia (ODMA) fair, O=Mega19 didn’t disappoint. It attracted more than 5,500 visitors from across Australia and New Zealand, and from as far afield as Asia, Italy and the US, including more than 130 exhibitors and 1,100 conference and 610 dispensing masterclass delegates.
An unsurprisingly upbeat ODMA CEO Finola Carey said she was “stoked” with the support from the industry, especially from conference delegates who were, as hoped, making the most of the carefully designed, fair-visiting time slots.
Though there were many fair-only visitors, conference delegates were encouraged to visit the fair by staggering the fair and conference start times and having extra-long lunch breaks and post-conference drinks, both hosted in the exhibition hall.
“Logistically, we can’t move 1,100 people three times a day,” explained Carey. “So, we’ve thought very strategically about it. We negotiated with Optometry Victoria South Australia (OVSA) to ensure the best mix that served both our needs… and this has been an incredibly successful partnership.”
Others agreed. Exhibitor Jacquie Ellis from McCann Optical said O=Mega has been great, especially for showing McCann’s full accessories range to normally too busy optometrists. “It’s been a joy to meet them and actually have some time without feeling rushed.”
Optometrist and conference delegate Bruce Nicholls was also a fan. “I was looking forward to O=Mega and it didn’t disappoint. The keynote American speakers where both relevant and easy to listen to, which made their lectures fly by. I caught up with the latest thoughts on diabetes, dry eye and myopia control, and we managed to get some solid leads at the trade fair and viewed some fabulous equipment.”
Nicholls said it was also great to see so many New Zealanders present, most of whom, like him had added on a couple of “shopping” days in Melbourne.
Visualeyez practice owner Craig Robertson particularly liked the timing of the event which coincided with the Australian and New Zealand school holidays, allowing him to bring his wife and “expensive” kids over and make a holiday of the trip. He even bought some frames, he said. “It was nice to be exposed to some brands of sunnies and opticals that previously either haven’t been represented in New Zealand or were only available in non-optical retailers.” He also investigated some new equipment and enjoyed Melbourne’s art and sport, and said he’d be back in 2021.
Paterson Burn Optometry group CEO Cale Stevenson was also impressed. “Omega did an excellent job of representing the industry, both people and the profession. It was great to see so many from New Zealand make the trip, to come together to share their combined passion. I was also very impressed with the investment from the likes of Essilor, Eyes Right and Maui Jim, all of whom went the extra mile to create showstopping displays.”
New Zealand frames company, Phoenix Eyewear’s Phil Wilson and Mark Collman both said it was a fantastic show with a good feel to it. “I think it was the best ODMA for 10 years. Great location, good layout, simple but effective,” said Collman. Wilson agreed, adding it was great to see what frames were trending and that thinner metals were coming through from overseas collections.
Another exhibitor, Eyes Right Optical’s Mark Wymond, said it had been a very successful show both for Eyes Right and sister company Modstyle. “Both companies opened up a number of new accounts and lots more shelf space with existing customers.” A particularly big success was the new Koali collection, he said, though the best thing about the show was having the time to see and thank so many of Eyes Rights loyal customers. Representing many of Eyes Right’s brands in New Zealand, MSO’s Gethin Sladen echoed these sentiments. “O=Mega19 was ‘O for awesome’ as David Tua would have said. Melbourne really laid it on.” While Eyepro’s Tom Frowde said O=Mega19 was well organised and provided a great platform to enhance and build new relationships. Everyone questioned said they’d be back in two years for O=Mega’s next instalment.
After the fair, Carey thanked all the exhibitors, sponsors and visitors and said O=Mega had brought positivity back to optics. “We united the entire industry under one roof. Everyone has left feeling energised and optimistic for the future.”
Carey’s joint venture partner OVSA CEO Pete Haydon was equally upbeat. “O=Mega19 represented a wonderful coming together of the profession and the industry; the most significant ever attempted in Australia. We think O=Mega is the future of conferencing for our sector and we’ll be back, better than ever, in 2021.”