Florida Dental Laboratory Association (FDLA) -Weathering the Storm and Coming Out Stronger

By: Jillian Heddaeus

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The Florida Dental Laboratory Association (FDLA), founded in 1964, is PIAM’s second longest term client.  While I have not served as their Executive Director for their entire duration, I have been fortunate to witness the remarkable turn of events they have provided for themselves and their membership.

It has always been the goal to make sure laboratory owners and technicians are recognized as a valued part of the dental team and the association has come a long way.

Each year, FDLA hosts the Southern States Symposium & Expo. This symposium is the largest dental laboratory industry meeting in the country run by a nonprofit association. Like many trade associations, annual convention revenue can comprise of 50% or more of the annual budget.

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Across the United States, State Dental Laboratory Associations are consolidating, merging or dissolving their organizations/meetings all together, so when attendance started to decline followed by exhibit and sponsorships, both FDLA’s Board and Staff knew a change was needed before Florida became a part of the statistics.

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The FDLA Board knew that attendance at the Symposium & Expo and membership numbers worked hand-in hand.  Every aspect of what our members wanted out of the association and what non-members were seeking needed to be reviewed, including:

  • Symposium Pricing – The board took the plunge, and reduced the price for registration at the Symposium & Expo. They also integrated an “additional attendee rate” to encourage labs to send multiple employees. Labs took advantage of the discounted rate and while it slowed the decline, it didn’t solve the problem.
  • Membership Pricing – The board converted their membership dues structure to a tiered system. On the membership side, it was a great success.  Florida has a large number of 1-2 person laboratories; this allowed the Laboratory owner to include one additional employee as a member for any continuing education programs without the additional cost of membership dues.  While our current members enjoyed saving a little on their annual membership dues, it didn’t solve the decline in Symposium & Expo registration.  (For more information on converting to a tiered membership structure, visit: https://partnerspreceptors.com/2016/02/23/movin-on-up-part-1/ and Part 2: https://partnerspreceptors.com/2016/05/03/movin-on-up-part-2/)
  • Symposium Content – The FDLA Board had always brainstormed speakers and content relative to the Keynote Presentations at the Symposium & Expo. But after several Symposium Board debriefing meetings following the down years the FDLA Board set a different path. The FDLA Board would still seek the same manufacturers and suppliers to sponsor content but what they presented on would be determined by the board.  Each board meeting blocked out 1-2 hours of Speaker and course/workshop planning.  Board members vetted topics, speakers and course structure, ending up with a completely custom schedule of relevant information, something tangible for all labs.  The feedback was immediate and positive. AttendeeCount

It doesn’t stop there, the FDLA Board must continue to keep its finger on the pulse of the dental laboratory industry around the country and their ears open to their peers in Florida.  Only time will tell if FDLA will continue to weather the storm, but with the passion and engagement of the Board of Directors the future looks bright.

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