I hadn’t planned to visit Opti this year, not because I don’t think it’s a great event, but I told my wife there would be fewer weekends away working in 2023. An invite to visit a 3D printing factory in Munich the day before the show opened on Friday meant I found myself walking the halls of the Messe München once again.

Last’s year’s Opti was held in May and it had an unusual feel to it, mainly because there’s normally a blanket of snow in January, but also because it felt a little quiet. Perhaps, this was to be expected, given it was the organiser’s first Opti for more than two years and the lure of an indoor trade show in beautiful spring weather isn’t particularly strong.

From talking to Opti’s press team at the show, it seems exhibitors had different expectations for last year’s event, with many deciding to stay away for 2023. The line from organisers was that they know they must win back the trust of exhibitors, which really surprised me, because Opti is one of the few optical trade shows that has genuinely been in the ascendancy over the past decade, both in terms of visitor and exhibitor numbers. It must be a tough gig running a trade show. One global pandemic and you’ve lost the ‘trust’ of clients.

Despite this year’s visitor numbers of 15,500 being up 19% on 2022, they were well down on January 2020’s figure of 28,000. It’s difficult to put a finger on why visitors haven’t returned in droves, but last year’s May event doesn’t feel like a long time ago. I’m not sure I’d want to visit two of the same trade shows in less than eight months.

Given GHM’s track record with Opti, I think exhibitors need to cut the organisers a little slack, but it does mean there’s a lot at stake with 2024’s event.