Back in Vegas, Medtrade Spring Attendance Is Up...But Will Rehab Return?

Following significantly lower attendance at its 2008 event in Long Beach, Calif., Medtrade Spring was back this year in familiar surroundings: the Las Vegas Convention Center. The result: a 12-percent increase in the number of DME suppliers in attendance, according to event owner Nielsen Business Media. Show director Kevin Gaffney said total attendance - that includes exhibitors, suppliers, educational presenters and press - was 4,600 for the three-day conference and exhibit hall.

Kirsten DeLay, senior VP of sales management & operational planning for Pride Mobility Products, says she believes "the provider mindset has changed for Medtrade and really all tradeshows, in that far more their priority of focus is education and government affairs.... I think providers are very focused on their budgets and their ROI, and Medtrade does give a provider more than one venue, so to speak. I do think that that helps."

Going Forward, What Will Rehab Do?

DeLay added that this year's Medtrade Spring attendee "tended to be owners or very high-level people that were actually running the providers' businesses." That perception was backed up by Nielsen's statement that 35 percent of attendees registered themselves as "owner/president/executive class." That type of attendee is generally seen as good news to exhibitors, who like to see decision-makers come to their booths.

Still up in the air, however, is whether rehab-focused manufacturers will participate en masse at future events, including Medtrade in Atlanta. Rehab exhibitors have become increasingly few at both spring and fall Medtrade events, with Invacare Corp., Permobil and Sunrise Medical electing not to go. Complex rehab exhibitors were very scarce in Vegas, despite the return to the desert venue.

"Providers noticed it was small," DeLay says. "I think from a provider perspective, they would like to see a better variety of exhibitors there."

Gaffney says Medtrade "is focused on enhancing the offerings for rehab professionals within the HME industry." Among the possibilities in the planning stages, he added, are a Rehab Pavilion for exhibitors and expanding the educational offerings in the rehab segment. Gaffney says Medtrade would like to establish "stronger working relationships with RESNA, NRRTS and ISS (International Seating Symposium)" - the last of which is now commonly acknowledged in rehab circles as the most prestigious event currently on the calendar.

But despite the low number of rehab exhibitors and the challenging economic times, DeLay said attendees were generally in good spirits.

"I think the tone is surprisingly optimistic," DeLay says, "because people are very dedicated to figuring out how to survive and thrive regardless of what the challenges are."

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

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