Everybody’s got a Top 10 list. David Letterman’s Top 10 followed his monologue every weeknight on his Late Night Show for years. Who could forget Top Ten Signs You’re Not the Coolest Kid. Even though Vision Expo is well in our rear-view mirror, we feel like we are still living it through post-Expo slideshows and coverage of events like our VM Summit and Private Equity panel. (Watch this space in the coming weeks for some of those highlights). So here is a somewhat personal look at some special moments from Expo. And remember, we’re editors here at VMAIL Weekend, so we promise our Top 10 takeaways won’t be as ridiculous as some of Dave’s.

Girl Power at the Safilo Breakfast

Vision Expo is a non-stop, high energy few days. Sometimes I’m tired before it even begins, hah. However, the highlight of this year’s show was attending the Safilo Women in Optics breakfast. It was a wonderful experience engaging with women from different areas of the optical community in an intimate setting before heading to the show (that's me with The Vision Council's Ashley Mills). The Safilo showroom was beautifully decorated, the breakfast was delicious and we even got to place our votes for the Safilo x Parson’s special eyewear design project which was super cool. Having a calm morning of positive, female-centered interaction was the perfect way to start my day. Girl Power!

Jamie Wilson

Partying With Zeiss Aboard the USS Intrepid

The Zeiss launch party for its new UVProtect lens technology aboard the USS Intrepid was one of the best Expo events I’ve ever attended—and I’ve attended quite a few over the years. Holding the event on the WWII-era aircraft carrier was an inspired choice of venue. It was away from the crowded midtown streets and imparted a special feeling to the whole evening.

Zeiss marketing chief, Andrew Hyncik, (pictured here) started the evening in the ship’s theater with an interesting presentation about Zeiss’s historic role in the arts and technology. A highlight was a spectacular sequence of clips from movies that were filmed through Zeiss lenses.

The several hundred guests then moved into the ship’s main area, directly below the flight deck, where a 10-piece dance band entertained and great food and drinks were in abundance. You could see from the happy looks on everyone’s faces, including mine, that we were having a blast.

Zeiss also called attention to UVProtect with a special interactive display at Vision Expo. Attendees could get a photo of their face taken through a UV filter at the Zeiss Discovery Center, which was located in the Javits Center’s main hallway. The photo showed how UV has affected their skin. Attendees also got to play with hands-on, interactive demos that revealed those invisible rays, and visitors to the Zeiss booth interacted and learned about UV protection within using Bluetooth earphones. The unique interactive experience was a hit with attendees, and tripled the number of leads Zeiss normally generates at the show.

Andrew Karp

‘Party Time’ at the Private Equity Takes Root Panel

Hard to believe, I know, but my “party-animal” days are in the past. Way in the past. I mean before social media and the Internet.

That said, I enjoy a good party as much as the next guy. So, yes, I made my way to a number of social events at the recently concluded Vision Expo show. And I enjoyed the camaraderie and good cheer these events typically provide. But, perhaps this is a signal that I really am getting old since the big highlight of Expo East for me was the special Saturday session, “Private Equity Takes Root: What Does it Mean for Optometry?”

This session was organized by Jobson’s Vision Monday and Review of Optometric Business magazines. This event spanned two hours, and could easily have run a little longer judging by the rapt interest of the 350-plus attendees. The session featured two panel groups—one with three experienced ODs and a second with five representatives from investor organizations with holdings in eyecare businesses—and the discussion was detailed, candid and, at times, light-hearted as the participants dissected the topic du jour—private equity’s role in optical retailing.

In some ways, the session reminded me a little of the hit television show “Shark Tank,” only in reverse. The investor execs were the ones pitching a story, and the independent ECPs were sitting in the power seat, in this session at least.

Mark Tosh

A Real Meet and Greet With Cynthia Bailey

One of my highlights this year at Expo was getting to meet "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star, Cynthia Bailey. I have been an avid fan of the show for years now and I thought I wasn’t going to be able to meet her because I had other commitments during the time she was conducting meet and greets. However, I lucked out as I made my way into the Galleria Lounge for one of the Pop Up Talks and she was there. I of course, fan-girled and confessed my utter admiration for her. She was gracious and reciprocated with a kind smile and obliged to taking a selfie with me.

Stephanie Sengwe

#OWALovesNYC #BeABoss #Success

So moving to see how the OWA has grown! Word is getting out to so many new members, an energized and active board, plus so many Professional Development Fund sponsors. The setting of Espace was the backdrop for an elegant and moving OWA’s Champagne Breakfast honoring three exceptional industry leaders, pictured here: VisionWeb's Janelle Pauli, Luxottica's Deb Bulken and The Vision Council's Ashley Mills. The group’s evening cocktail/networking reception at Kimpton Eventi reinforced it all. It struck me how much this organization has come into its own to Connect, Inspire and Lead the professional development of women throughout all sectors of the business!

Marge Axelrad, #ProudToBeOWA

Here are a few of my takeaways:

A Greater Vision From Reade Fahs

The Vision Monday Executive Summit is always a highlight for me. It’s exciting to see all the optical industry players in attendance and it can sometimes be heart stopping for VMers since we are, after all, putting on a show. Traditionally, it takes place the day before Expo begins and while it’s technically not part of Expo, for me and a lot of other Summit attendees, it has become the unofficial kickoff to the show. Over the past 12 years, I’ve heard a lot of impressive speakers and sat through some mind blowing panels, but this time around I was truly mesmerized by Reade Fahs who heads up National Vision.

Reade took the stage to speak about social responsibility and the need for companies to become more collaborative, transparent and responsive to employees and customers. He stood at the front of the stage and spoke directly to the audience. His Power Point presentation was simple, almost bare bones, but his message was direct and quite powerful. He took the Summit audience through his involvement in and the history of RestoringVision.org which has provided readers to some 10 million people since its inception in 2003. And throughout he talked about the power of helping people see, one pair of eyeglasses at a time.

He pointed out that “giving back is not just a Millennial thing” and he called on the optical community in the room to work together on improving vision for those in need. He said, “People in optical have unique qualifications and tend to stay in the industry for a long time. In a sense, we are public health workers and we are in the midst of a public health issue.” Reade then urged the audience to come together in an effort to eliminate the lack of eyeglasses in the world, calling it our “moon shot.” All I could think was “sign me up” and I’m hoping the rest of the people in the Times Center felt the same way.


The Talk in the Galleria

Jobson editors rose to the occasion and for the second year in a row participated in a series of Pop Up talks that took place in the Galleria Lounge. Vision Monday’s own Jamie Wilson and Stephanie Sengwe were joined by Ruth Domber of 10/10 Optics and Karen Freidus of Center Stage Optique (pictured above, at left) to dish about “Independents A to Z: A Guide to Standing out on Main Street.” Inspired by the ever-changing optical retail landscape, the intimate yet dynamic panel discussion focused on the do’s, don’ts and business tactics of running an independent retail location as well as forging a distinct identity and experience on Main Street. VM’s sister pub, 20/20 Magazine featured James Spina for an interactive Pop-Up Talk titled, “Seeing Eye to Eye.” Spina was joined by his editorial team consisting of Christine Yeh, Victoria Garcia and Jillian Urcelay. They addressed why the perfection of an Opti-Partnership between an eyewear retailer and an eyewear vendor is the first step when it comes to fitting a Frame. Both talks were well-attended and it looks like after two years, Pop Up talks have gained some serious legs.

Erin Go Bragh, Even at Expo

For the first time in my memory, Expo took place during St. Patrick’s Day, which made for some interesting show floor traditions. Everybody got into the spirit of the day (check out that attendee’s hat?!). There was green beer flowing and live Irish music playing throughout the day. I guess the old adage that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day rings true.


The Battle of the Best Booths

Show organizers changed it up a bit this year by adding a Best Booth Contest to the Expo mix this year.
Winning booths were voted on by Show attendees, who cast ballots for their favorite exhibitor booth in each of two categories: “Most Creative Booth Design” and “Best Use Of Technology.” The winner in the category of “Most Creative Booth Design” was De Rigo REM, Booth #1452. Curated by the company’s creative director, Nicolas Roseillier (pictured above left with Alessandro Baronti) and constructed and executed by Gilbert Displays, the glittering new booth married brand storytelling with unique materials and one-of-a-kind art installations. The winner in the category of “Best Use of Technology” was Kuusoft Corporation, Booth #1779 (above right). The firm serves clients from the U.S. and Canada and provides eyecare, optical and retail companies with end-to-end digital signage solutions. Congrats to both companies.

The Show Dailies and Expo After Hours

After 6 p.m., the Javits Center takes on a whole new ambience. The show floor is empty, displays are covered and chairs hang over tables like an empty restaurant or bar. Friday was an especially long night in The Dailies press room up in 4B01. During one of my many trips to the restroom, I snapped this slightly eerie picture, and couldn’t help but think of the time years ago when I got locked in the Javits Center, after another especially long day. You see after a certain time they actually chain the front doors. So after searching for the right security officer, we were taken into the basement and let out a back door which dumped us on to 12th Avenue. It was an odd and frustrating end to a day that felt like it would never be over but it still makes for a good story.

Mary Kane