Vision Expo East 2022: Eye care returns to New York City
I entered the vision industry a little over two years ago. Vision Expo was around the corner. It was the year of vision. The excitement was palpable on day one: This was going to be a huge event in a big year for Patch (soon to be Anagram). I was planning to attend and dip my toe into the industry at the largest event of a year seemingly made for eye care professionals: 2020. A year that ended before it even began as the coming pandemic began to silently spread in late 2019.
We as an industry have been through a lot in the subsequent two years. Personally, I’ve learned so much from feeling our way through the early days of the pandemic through the launch of Anagram Prosper this year. And all of our experiences. All of our growth as an industry. All of my lessons learned in two years here. It was all put to the test during one weekend in April as eye care professionals converged on New York City once again for Vision Expo East’s return to the Javits Center.
Dance routines, dirty jokes and the end of vision plan dependence
So what did we see? The dance routine of the century. A new logo reimagined as a graphic encounter. The return of an entire industry to New York City after a global pandemic. Vision Expo East 2022 had everything you could hope for: New friends, fun, an industry moving forward and confirmation that yes, we are in fact back.
Vision Expo East 2022 was unlike any conference I’ve been to for a variety of reasons. There were so many people I knew but have never met in person before. Getting to shake their hands and look them in the eyes was an experience I had missed for the last couple of years. There were so many attendees who came to the Anagram booth seeking us out. I have never seen that sort of intense interest from prospective customers who have never even heard a pitch. And there was so much common understanding among the optometrists and opticians that I met there—the understanding that the big vision plans aren’t working for providers or patients.
A first product pitch. Then another, and another, and another…
The first half hour or so was slow. As the event opened up on Friday, April 1, people began trickling in. You could see them walking past; and it seemed that maybe we weren’t ready for a conference yet. Maybe most people decided to stay home. Even before the pandemic, Patch was a small company on the come up. Most people had no idea who we were. And now at an in-person, unmasked event following the pandemic, we had no idea what sort of activity we’d get at our booth.
For me, it would have been bittersweet. At least I wouldn’t fall flat on my face during my first ever in-person pitch of our product. But I didn’t have long to dwell on how that first pitch would go, because once our booth got some traction with attendees the activity didn’t stop!
First, a lab who could make a great partner for our latest product: Prosper. Then an OD who is tired of vision plans. And like tears pooling atop an inflamed duct, attendees began to gather around our booth looking for more information on Anagram.
When I wasn’t discussing Anagram Access or Prosper with ECPs, I was meeting people I had only emailed or Zoomed with. Our TechifEYE friends such as Roya, Optify, Spexy, Weave, PracticePal, Akrinos, Dr. Contact Lens, Twelve84 and more were all present. Among our partners, ClearVision, Go Eyewear, De Rigo REM and Nikon were also well represented. Friends including Aquios Advisors and ODs on Finance stopped by to say hello.
They all made the event that much better simply by being around and helping to keep even the occasional slow stretches entertaining. Throughout the weekend, there was one recurring topic of discussion: A certain vision plan’s massive rebrand and the fact that it was transformed into a dirty joke with some light editing. If you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, ask a friend.
Long days, late nights and lasting memories
It was enough to drain me by the end of day one. But the night was just beginning and we had an ODs on Facebook party to attend. It was time to let loose, scrounge drink tickets and gossip about all that was going on in eye care.
We spent time with Dat and Aaron from ODs on Finance talking about our plans to help ECPs find financial freedom. We connected with everyone’s favorite face of Nikon USA, Everest Pandya, to celebrate the success of our partnership through Prosper. And we witnessed the dance of the century as one of our own took to the floor for a routine no one would soon forget. In fact, we had conference attendees stopping by our booth for dance tips for the next couple of days!
It seemed like the eye care parties scattered across New York City were as numerous yellow cabs or skyscrapers. But there’s little chance many of them matched what Dr. Alan Glazier was able to pull off with this year’s Vision Expo East ODs on Facebook event.
From Patch to Anagram: A startup grows up between Vision Expos
As much wild fun as the nights could be, the real action happened during the day at our booth. I can’t begin to count how many people stopped by to tell us some variation on: “I’ve heard of you before and I’m really interested in what you’re doing.”
We used to have to explain Patch to people. But Anagram. People know us now. We don’t seek ECPS out. They seek us out. It was an amazing thing to see. But, really it’s no surprise. Who doesn’t want to run their own practice the way they see fit? Who hasn’t felt cheated by vision plans?
We’re not telling anyone anything they don’t know already. We’re just offering a solution. A few years ago we were still spreading the word about that solution. However, now we’re finding interest from all sorts of ECPs from Alaska to Maine and everywhere in between.
There are few things better than hearing your solution is a “no brainer.” While we certainly heard the same at VEE, the event also introduced me to some contenders. For example, when an ECP explains that they’ve been waiting to join Anagram as soon as they dropped their final vision plan. Or when someone notes that they’re getting by just fine out-of-network because patients are loyal to their provider, not their plan.
Take your pick. We heard it all at Vision Expo and it never gets old.
A shared vision at Vision Expo
As we were breaking down our booth on Sunday, our TechifEYE friends with Weave made a point to tell us how much they appreciated being near the Anagram booth. They told us it was amazing how often our booth was entirely circled by attendees enthralled with the demos we were giving. We were so busy throughout the event, they explained, that they were grateful for the traffic we helped bring by.
We appreciate it. But we couldn’t have attracted that sort of crowd without our friends and partners in the industry, as well as independent ECPs everywhere. From our fellow TechifEYE members to our Prosper partners to everyone in the industry supporting independent eye care: We’re here because you all care so much about and understand the value of the independent ECP.
The vision industry never got the year it was hoping for when I got hired. That year, 2020, quickly turned on everyone. I never got to attend Vision Expo 2020. Who knows what it could have been.
I certainly don’t. But, I do know what I saw and felt at Vision Expo East 2022. My first Vision Expo was an unforgettable experience. The reason? It had less to do with vision than with vision. What do I mean?
It was a shared vision that carried the spark from one hour to the next, from day to day. A vision that eye care providers have the tools they need to set their own standard of care, to reclaim their practices and to reward their patients with better experiences. Everyone saw the problem. Both literally and figuratively it hung overhead as the event went on. And the solution: Well, have you heard of Anagram?