SCENE + HEARD: Today's Read A Q&A With Vision Expo Execs Fran Pennella and Mitch Barkley By Mary Kane Friday, April 16, 2021 2:00 PM VMAIL Weekend recently sat down with (remotely of course) Fran Pennella, VP of Vision Expo at Reed Exhibitions and Mitch Barkley, VP of Trade Shows and Events at The Vision Council for an update on what’s in store for attendees at the upcoming Vision Expo East in Orlando, Fla. The two executives spoke about the new Neighborhoods debuting on the Show floor, safety precautions and procedures that are being put in place, and new Show events that attendees can expect to find. The two show organizers also detailed how this year’s Show experience will differ from years past as Vision Expo settles into its new location at the Orange County Convention Center from June 2-5, 2021. Question 1: What are your expectations for the number of attendees and exhibitors and how different will the Show Experience be from previous Expos? Mitch Barkley: We are excited about the interest and commitment from suppliers and designers and their flexibility in transitioning to a new host site location. To-date, we have more than 200 exhibiting companies committed to Vision Expo East 2021, and registration numbers are also strong, with more than 1,500 people registered already and continuing to climb.While we look forward to welcoming back the attendees and exhibitors who typically attend the show, we are also energized by the opportunity we have with the show’s new location to expand the accessibility of Vision Expo East to eyecare providers in the southeast region of the U.S. Ultimately, we hope to welcome a new set of attendees who may not have attended in the past, alongside our longstanding attendees. We’re also in the midst of dynamic conversations with outside organizations who are planning to co-locate their events to Orlando and help bring the community together again after a turbulent year. Prevent Blindness will host their Swing Fore Sight Golf Tournament on Wednesday, June 2 and the Professional Opticians of Florida also recently committed to the event as an official supporter, during which they will have a presence at the OptiCon@Vision Expo Hub and will provide four hours of Florida-required continuing education, including two hours of Laws and Rules and two hours of Reduction of Medical Errors. Additionally, the National Optometric Association will host an in-person regional meeting at Vision Expo East and will offer six hours of education exclusive to their members on Friday, June 4 and Saturday, June 5. The NOA will also host a panel on Saturday, June 5.We are energized by the enthusiasm the industry is demonstrating and look forward to announcing even more industry supporters in the coming weeks. We’re looking forward to Vision Expo West 2021, scheduled to take place September 22-25 at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas. We’ll be opening registration this summer and announcing more details on what to expect and Show highlights in the coming months. Question 2: Talk about the safety precautions and procedures that will be in place at Vision Expo in Orlando. Fran Pennella: We are excited to bring the community together safely this June at Vision Expo Expo East 2021. In February 2021, we rolled out VisionSAFE, an initial comprehensive set of health and safety guidelines, policies and resources designed to support a safe experience at Vision Expo East 2021. We will continue to update VisionSAFE policies in accordance with the latest health and safety guidelines. For the most recent VisionSAFE guidelines, including exhibiting guidelines, please refer to the VisionSAFE page on the Vison Expo website. VisionSAFE complements the robust health and safety measures in place at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), a host site we specifically selected based on its successful track record of hosting safe events over the past year. The OCCC has strict health and safety precautions in place, as well as upholding all nationally recommended precautions, including mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing. Additionally, the OCCC is part of a first of its kind collaboration between Orlando Health and Visit Orlando, which provides convention groups with personalized medical planning and support. The OCCC was one of the first convention centers in the nation to receive the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s GBAC STAR™ accreditation, which is designed to help facilities establish a comprehensive system of cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention, and is widely recognized as the gold standard of safe and prepared venues. The Orlando International Airport holds the same accreditation. Question 3: Update on us on the different "Neighborhoods" and what each one will feature. Barkley: We are looking forward to a vibrant show, featuring exciting neighborhoods representing a wide range of exhibiting companies, and several new show destinations. Some of our core neighborhoods include: The Focus, The Park, The Union, The Springs, and The River. We’ll be introducing more neighborhoods soon as well.• Representing the foundation of eyecare and offering the key to masterfully servicing patients and customers, The Focus brings together lens and coating technology, lens processing techniques, disease management solutions, contact lens innovations and eyecare practice optimization and will feature exhibitors including Alcon, Allergan, Bausch + Lomb, Novartis, Topcon and Zeiss. • In The Park, industry icons, ubiquitous brands and prestigious collections will unveil their latest styles and offerings in inspired displays that celebrate the worlds of superior style and exemplary service. Exhibiting companies include: Charmant, Eyewear Designs Ltd., Tura, Liberty Sport and The McGee Group.• The Union will offer the ultimate shopping experience for those seeking the newest in independent design, with collection launches and pop-culture inspired collaborations. Exhibiting companies include: Modo Eyewear, Etnia Barcelona, Studio Optyx, ic! berlin and Spectacle Eyeworks. • Driven by design, The River is the realm of the daring with collections that continue to shape the future of eyewear in a thrilling fashion, art and culture-inspired universe, with a lineup of exhibitors including TD Tom Davies, Sospiri by Ottica Veneta, Wood Optic and Rigards. • The Springs will serve as a discovery zone and incubator for emerging talent in eyewear design and vision innovation. Exhibiting companies include: Ferilli Eyewear, TYCHE + ISET Eyewear, Bonavista Optics and SpiltMilk Eyewear. Question 4: What new features or events can show goers expect? Pennella: We’re excited to introduce The Seen, a brand new, dynamic main stage destination offering collaborative learning. The Seen will be home to the Innovation Stage, where groundbreaking products and services will be presented. The stage in The Seen will also feature multiple EYE2EYE Series panels focusing on everything from fashion trends to diversity in the industry. On Saturday, June 5, The Seen will host the Career Zone, a networking hub for students and young professionals where they can explore career opportunities and take part in several dynamic events. Industry leaders and innovators gather at The Seen for inspiration, engagement, special events and more. We’ll be announcing a detailed line-up of events at The Seen in the coming weeks.Additionally, VisionEd is Vision Expo’s sought-after education program dedicated to seminars, workshops and presentations where attendees can hone their craft in courses led by renowned experts in clinical research, business, fashion and marketing. OptiCon@Vision Expo also returns with an unmatched education program and exhibit hall experience for opticians, contact lens technicians and ophthalmic allied professionals. To check out all the amazing CE that will be offered at Vision Expo East 2021, visit visionexpoeast.com and click on “Education”—this will let you browse through all the courses being offered so you can plan your time accordingly. Question 5: When people are not attending Expo, what kind of activities and restaurant options are available in the Orlando area? Pennella: We are excited to host Vision Expo in sunny Orlando and hope that attendees take advantage of the destination’s many offerings while they are in town for the Show.For Disney lovers, theme parks in Orlando have reopened with reduced maximum capacity and other protections. Outdoorsy types can enjoy Orange County’s public parks and trails, most of which are open and provide excellent opportunities to have fun and enjoy Orlando’s great weather. Most local golf courses are open, too. We’re excited that Prevent Blindness will host their Swing Fore Sight Golf Tournament on Wednesday, June 2 at the Orange County National Golf Course in conjunction with Vision Expo East.In terms of health and safety outside the Show, Orange County has an executive order in effect requiring every person in a public setting to wear a facial covering as part of our COVID-19 prevention efforts, and also encourages local businesses to actively support social distancing and CDC guidelines. For more detailed information on what’s open, what to do, and local health and safety protocols, check out VisitOrlando.com.