The State of DSO and Dental Group Practice Meetings in 2020 & 2021 

In September 2020, with 35,000 registered visitors, the China Dental Show 2020 in Shanghai was the first major dental event in East Asia which took place after the emergence of the Covid-19. Planmeca was one of more than 600 exhibitors at the event.

COVID-19 has disrupted just about everything in 2020. The impact of the pandemic shutdown has reverberated throughout the entire dental industry — practices suffered, industry partners trimmed staff, and sales/marketing roles shifted from in person to virtual.

With the move to virtual, travel restrictions, budget cuts and overall fear, what does the future of dental events – and specifically emerging dental group and DSO meetings – look like?

Believe it or not, there are large international in person dental shows taking place right now and smaller in person U.S. meetings currently being planned for Q1 2021.

In early September 2020, Shanghai hosted the China Dental Show 2020. This was the first major in person dental show to occur in East Asia after COVID-19 struck. The show had 35,000 registered attendees with over 600 exhibitors. One of those exhibitors, Planmeca, wrote about their experience as a vendor at the China Dental Show. 

To enter the exhibition hall, all participants had to wear masks and present their mobile health QR codes, registered name cards as well as identification cards or passports at the security control. At the Planmeca booth, the local Planmeca team in China also paid special attention to safety and increased infection control – themes that have always been essential in the Planmeca product design as well. Of course, hand sanitizers were available at the booth for visitors to disinfect their hands before and after touching the equipment.

GDN asked for input from five DSO meeting organizers on the state of DSO & dental group practices meetings in 2021 and surveyed the dental industry (results below input) to understand the current mindset. 

Here is what the five DSO meeting organizers had to say:

Academy of Dental Group Practice – Mark Fitzgerald, Senior Staff Director [AADGP Expo] 
I am sure I am not alone when saying that 2020 has proven to be a most challenging year. With the advent of the pandemic, the AADGP Staff and the Board had to do a realistic risk assessment of the likelihood of holding our annual Expo in February of 2021 in Las Vegas. While the February 2020 Expo went off as planned in February of this year, the lack of clear understanding of just where the world will be in early 2021 was of great concern to us all.

A poll of our members showed an equal mix of a preference for a live versus virtual event for the 2021 Expo. The shutdowns of many practices due to the pandemic weighed heavily on many stating that the shutdown made them reluctant to leave their practice for yet another several days. As a result of all of this we have made the decision to make the 2021 Expo a virtual event. We are fortunate to have hired a virtual event producer with a great deal of experience working with associations to create meaningful events using the latest in virtual meeting technology. The 2021 Expo will be about as far away from a Zoom meeting as possible.

This year also taught us the importance of creating other virtual or hybrid programs that will provide a benefit to our members while lessening their need to travel. We are actually very optimistic about the future as we launch these new programs in the 4th quarter of 2020. Virtual meetings are here to stay in some fashion and AADGP wants to take a leadership role in the delivery of these events.

Association of Dental Support Organizations – Emmet Scott, President [ADSO Summit]
Immediately after the shutdown, ADSO began using its position as an industry convener to hold weekly virtual board meetings that drew record attendance and participation. On the calls, DSO leaders had a platform to share best practices on PPE deployment, teledentistry appointments, and social distancing measures. Guest speakers from DSO counterparts in Europe and China also joined to provide council.

Concurrently, ADSO’s Government Affairs Committee began meeting twice a week to ensure that dentists were not left behind when it came to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Provider Relief Fund. The community was able to partner with Senator Marco Rubio to ensure that supported practices could apply for and receive the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Afterward, ADSO leadership participated in several webinars and podcasts to educate members on how to secure these loans.

In March 2021, ADSO intends to convene members virtually to talk about industry trends, best practices and much more. This virtual event will be limited to ADSO members. Later next year, the ADSO looks forward to bringing back the annual ADSO Summit in the Fall of 2021, assuming safety conditions permit.

DEO: The Dentist Entrepreneur Organization – Darin Acopan, EVP/Partner [DEO Summer & Fall Summits]
Getting access to information in the live event format this year has been difficult due to the impact of COVID-19 as most DSO conferences were necessarily canceled or postponed until 2021. The DEO believed the best option was to pivot to virtual, as from the feedback of past attendees, many in the industry have to come to rely on our Summits. We believed it was a unique opportunity to offer valuable content in a new format.

We beta tested our first virtual event in April 2020 with an approximately 100 attendee Private Member Virtual Event. It scored just as well as a live event which gave our DEO team the confidence to produce the larger 2020 DEO Virtual Summer Summit. Ultimately 550 attendees participated and it received an NPS score on par with our live Summits.

Jacob Puhl, CEO of The DEO, recently did an informal poll in the DSO Secrets Facebook group on the hopes of dentist-entrepreneurs and DSO leaders for travel to dental industry events for next year. Over 80% said they’d be willing to travel now if there were events to attend or in Quarter 2 of 2021 after the winter is over. Thus, we believe the industry is ready for live events given the right circumstances. Once again, The DEO is set to pivot either way. Our Summer (June) and Fall (November) 2021 DEO Summits will be held either way and we are keeping a close eye on when we can go back to live events.

HR for Health – Kimberly Fuller, Director of Business Education Resources [DSO Leadership Forum]
The DSO Leadership Summit (originally scheduled for April) sadly met the fate of many other events this year. We rescheduled to October, and have now pushed to 2021. All of the planning and re-planning is stressful, but our attendees and sponsors have been extremely understanding and for that we are grateful.

In the future I believe that most people will be very enthusiastic to get back to meeting face-to-face. We did a survey in June and 94% stated that they would rather have the Summit in-person. When that day does come, I predict that meetings will look different. Hybrid meetings will be the norm, there will always be virtual or live streamed options. Likely there will be stricter attendance caps, room dividers may be utilized to keep attendees in smaller groups, locations with outdoor options will be more popular, and the good old buffet may be a relic. (Soggy steamed vegetable medley we’ll mourn you so!)

The DSO Leadership Summit saw many of our colleagues in the industry hosting virtual summits and, while we considered that course, we ultimately decided that a different direction would suit our audience best. So we’re launching “Small Talk, Big Ideas – Candid Conversations with DSO Thought Leaders” addressing the industry’s challenges in short, easy to-digest conversations.

“Small Talk, Big Ideas” kicks off on Friday, October 9th at 11 am PT (2 pm ET), and is free and open to both DSO Leadership Summit registrants and the DSO community at large. They will stream live from the DSO Leadership Summit Facebook page, so be sure to follow us there!

Dykema – Brian Colao, DSO Director [Dykema Annual Definitive Conference for DSOs]
Dykema’s 7th Annual Definitive Conference for DSOs was on track to be our strongest dental industry conference yet with an expected 1,000+ attendees, so we were understandably a little disheartened when we had to cancel the event due to the pandemic. But with challenges comes opportunity. As the dental industry was temporarily shuttered and face-to-face interactions ceased, the Dykema DSO team was at the ready to help dentists and dental offices get through turbulent times. Dykema utilized a number of new technological platforms to efficiently and effectively distribute a wide array of timely, essential information. The Dykema DSO team held dozens of topical webinars, including an exclusive online conference geared specifically for dental businesses, “Reigniting Dentistry and the DSO Industry.” Now available on-demand, this online event provided more than six hours of information and guidance from many of the industry’s most respected leaders. Dykema DSO Director, Brian Colao, continues to deliver vital information to the industry through various online event appearances.

Try as we might, we can’t see into the future, but we are optimistic that 2021 will offer more normalcy as COVID-19 begins to wane. Dykema is already moving forward with planning for next year’s award-winning Definitive Conference for DSOs, which will be held at the Gaylord Rockies Hotel in Denver, Colorado on July 28-30, 2021. We’ve been assured by the venue that we will be able to hold a successful pandemic-proof conference, regardless of the conditions. We look forward to providing our attendees and sponsors with valuable information, networking, and opportunities that people have come to expect from the Dykema DSO team. (You can register today at to secure a historically low price of only $395, available for the rest of 2020.)

OpenRoom Events – Emma Faure, Fiona Horan, Founders & Managing Directors [DentalForum USA]
Back in March when national lockdowns were being rolled out, the feeling at OpenRoom was that we’d be getting back to organizing live, in-person events by September. With the benefit of hindsight, it has become clear that face-to-face meetings will not be possible in 2020. This has caused us, like many other businesses, to pivot into the digital realm.

For the US dental market, we are offering DentalForumFocus – a stripped back version of our flagship DentalForum event. The focus will remain on an informative speaker program combined with a bespoke one-to-one meeting schedule. This one day event offers unmatched time-efficiency and access to both senior DSO decision-makers and innovative suppliers. DentalForumFocus is completely free to attend for DSOs and heavily discounted for suppliers. The guest speaker at the event will be Elliott Eisenberg, the Bowtie Economist and the keynote will be delivered by Group Dentistry Now’s very own Bill Neumann.

Looking forward to 2021, our aim is to re-establish our global portfolio of in-person events. We believe that both virtual and in-person events have distinct benefits. Our USP has always been to facilitate an environment in which business relationships become genuine friendships. To create such an environment virtually is a challenge. As such, our virtual offering seeks to shift the focus from informal networking to unparalleled time-efficiency. In just five hours, we will pack in interactive speaker sessions, a collaborative boardroom session and eight one-to-one meetings. When the annual, in-person events kick off once again, we hope to continue offering a virtual equivalent six months after the main event as an opportunity to touch base once again with all of the connections you have made.

During the week of September 29-October 5, we asked dental industry professionals when they would be ready to attend DSO & dental group practice meetings in 2021 and we received 114 responses. Here are the results:



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