Medtrade Responds to 2008 Exhibitor Withdrawals, Attendee Questions

Group Show Director Kevin Bird Defends Upcoming Medtrade Spring Venue, Says Number of Atlanta Exhibitors Is in Line with Previous Years

Despite announcements from two major mobility/rehab manufacturers that they would not exhibit at 2008
Medtrade Spring or Medtrade, the overall number of exhibitors signed up so far for this year’s events is on par with numbers from previous years, said Medtrade Group Show Director Kevin Bird in an interview with Mobility Management.

Asked how booth space sales are progressing, Bird — who saw Permobil make its announcement during Medtrade 2007 in Orlando in October, then heard similar news from Invacare Corp. in mid-November — said, “Both shows are tracking the same way they have in previous years with the exception of the two companies that have made the decision not to participate in 2008.”

Rumors of perennial exhibitors choosing to sit out the 2008 Medtrade events began before the Orlando event and strengthened at the Orange County Convention Center amid aisles less crowded by attendees than usual, and a show hall that lacked Drive Medical, which did not exhibit (at press time, Drive told MM’s sister publication, Respiratory Management, that it had not yet decided whether it will exhibit at the 2008 shows).

After the show, Bird said more than 13,000 people attended

Medtrade, with more than 8,000 of those listed as “qualified buyers.” That was a 6-percent drop from 2006 numbers. In addition to persistent rumors that exhibitors were declining to sign 2008 contracts, Bird has also had to deal with Permobil’s announcement that it would host its own rehab show in April in Nashville, Tenn. Similarly, Invacare’s announcement included a statement that Invacare would “support the industry through participation in specialized shows, such as rehab- and respiratory-focused trade shows” and that the manufacturer would further ramp up its advocacy efforts by putting “even greater emphasis on supporting state and regional provider associations.

The (HME) division and its local sales representatives will be highly involved in educating and promoting those organizations.”
Invacare has since announced it will participate in the International Seating Symposium, Transporting Students with Disabilities & Pre-Schoolers Conference, Apria Healthcare Conference, National Seating & Mobility Symposium, and the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Conference, all rehab-focused events. Invacare is also planning to support The VGM Group’s Heartland Conference, which covers mobility/rehab and respiratory DME, and consumer-focused events such as the three Abilities Expos and the National Veterans Wheelchair Game.

Are “Focused” Shows the New Trend?

Asked if he sees a need for smaller, more focused trade shows and conferences, Bird said, “It really depends on what the attendee/exhibitor is looking for. The existence and need of specialized shows has always been there, but you can’t really compare them with Medtrade. That would be similar to comparing somebody who only sells grapes to somebody who runs a fruit stand… it’s not a fair comparison.

“If I am an exhibitor at Medtrade, I am looking to network with my peers, my customers and my prospects in an effort to either close business during the show or tee it up for the next year. In addition to the buyers that come to Medtrade, you will also start to see more referral sources, as we increase the value and variety of the CEU (continuing education units) program that is offered during the conferences, more specifically the Continuum of Care offered by AAHomecare (American Association for Homecare). More often than not, the specialized shows are going to bring in referral sources only, as opposed to the buyers.”

And despite the fact that their mega-booths will be missing from 2008 Medtrade floorplans, those companies who choose not to exhibit in the show hall may still have other opportunities to participate, if they want to contribute to, for instance, Medtrade’s educational offerings.

“We have made a commitment to our attendees to offer them the highest-quality education available,” Bird said. “If the Educational Planning Committee determines that a speaker who works for either Invacare or Permobil will add something to the conference content that would be beneficial, then I have no issue with that sort of participation. Both of those companies employ people that have such wealth of knowledge in various topics that it would be a disservice to attendees to take a stand against them like that. Our primary
goal is to ensure we offer the educational information that is needed by HME providers as they strive to remain successful.”

Addressing the Long Beach Questions

Medtrade Spring has an additional challenge to overcome, because it is temporarily leaving its popular and long-time Las Vegas location while the Convention Center is under construction. In 2008, Medtrade Spring will be at the Long Beach Convention Center, a picturesque, but smaller, less glamorous and more distant venue for most of the country. In addition, while Las Vegas is served by an international airport, Long Beach — California’s 5th-largest city and home to more than 460,000 residents — makes do with a small, regional airport with just one jet runway and a handful of airlines.

Bird defended the Long Beach venue, saying, “According to other organizations that have produced events in Long Beach, it is an excellent venue for both exhibitors and attendees. Although the convention center is smaller than the one in Las Vegas, the size of the exhibit hall will remain the same. Long Beach is a perfect destination for a convention such as Medtrade Spring. The city is large enough to accommodate the number of attendees and exhibitors, but it offers a location that is intimate. It has been said that the HME industry will ‘own’ Long Beach the first week of May.”

As for the challenge of reaching this venue, Bird says, “Our attendees and exhibitors have many options of getting to Long Beach. Long Beach Airport is the closest and offers many flights in and out each day. In addition, Los Angeles International Airport and Orange County’s John Wayne Airport are each 25 minutes from Long Beach, making both of these viable options.”

Still Bullish on Medtrade

Despite the questions about this year’s Medtrade shows, it’s clear the expos still wield a lot of clout and are still industry heavyweights. “Our providers have made it clear to us that Medtrade is an important show for them, and we will be attending Medtrade Spring in Long Beach to support and educate them,” says Kirsten DeLay, senior VP of sales management and operational planning at Pride Mobility Products. “If industry changes affect the size of Medtrade, we will make the appropriate adjustments to continue our presence as long as it is of value to our providers.”

In late November, AAHomecare sent out a bulletin to members saying the Medtrade 2008 shows would “provide stellar opportunities,” including the chance “to network and to gain vital information about new products and technologies and Medicare policy changes.” The announcement added that AAHomecare has “reiterated its strong endorsement of Medtrade as the premier trade show for the home medical equipment industry.”

AAHomecare President Tyler Wilson was quoted in the statement as saying, “Medtrade is the pre-eminent trade show for the home medical equipment industry. We urge our associate members, who are suppliers to the industry, to exhibit at Medtrade. We also encourage our provider members to attend Medtrade to take advantage of the opportunities to meet with vendors, network with peers, attend professional development sessions and hear updates on important legislative and regulatory issues.”

AAHomecare sponsors Medtrade’s pre-show educational conferences. “More so now than ever, HME providers should be looking for new technologies, products and programs that will increase their operational efficiency,” Bird said. “Medtrade and Medtrade Spring are the events that connect them with the companies that offer these solutions. The value of having all sectors of the industry —providers, manufacturers and industry consultants and leaders — in one place for a concentrated period is significant.”

For more information on either 2008 Medtrade event, go to

This article originally appeared in the January 2008 issue of Mobility Management.

Mobility Management Podcast