Exhibitors laud 'quality' of attendees

Friday, May 31, 2002

LAS VEGAS - For the first time in 22 years, Medtrade Spring sold out its educational seminars and by most accounts had one of its best showings ever.

"The fire marshal would have had a field day," said speaker Wallace Weeks of the Week's Group. "We had people standing up and sitting on the floor."

Last month's event took place in the 60,000-square-foot Sands Expo and included 396 exhibitors, up from 322 last year, and rougly 6,000 attendees, a 25% increase from last year's published figures.

The Sands - about 12,000 square feet larger than last year's venue, the Las Vegas Hilton - would have accommodated the 20% growth in seminar attendance that show organizer VNU Expositions expected. It didn't, however, handle the 35%-40% increase, forcing VNU to scramble at the 11th hour and run six of the seminars twice. Even still, a handful of providers missed out on the seminars.

Space should not be an issue next year when Medtrade Spring moves to the Las Vegas Convention Center, which has double the Sands' meeting space, said Cory Smith, director of sales for VNU.

The mid-year show has been on a steady growth pattern for the past three years. But why the dramatic increase this year?

Many attributed it in part to the September 11th terrorist attack, which frightened people into curbing travel plans and dropped last year's Medtrade attendance by 13% to 21,120, prompting providers to instead attend Medtrade Spring.

Another reason: the need for education and product knowledge in an increasingly complex industry.

"We have the largest market share in Lubbock, Texas, and want to keep it that way," said Rebecca Marin of Oxycare Plus. "If we stay up on new technology in the market, it gives us a competitive edge."

Anecdotal evidence indicates that more CEOs, presidents and decision makers attended this show than past events. Exhibitors routinely commented on the "quality" of attendees. And while the spring event is less a buying show than Medtrade, exhibitors seemed to relish the opportunity to make contacts and spend more time with individual attendees.

"We've had traffic all day long," said Mickey Letson, president of Letco Medical, a wholesale drug and compounding supply company "This show gives you the ability to meet people emerging into the market."

Said Michelle Dietz, national sales manager for Western Medica: "This gets us out early in the year, and gives us a chance to see a lot of people at once. It does wonders for business."

Smith doesn't expect Medtrade Spring to grow much bigger. Attendees like its manageable, slower paced personality. And while it draws attendees from around the country, because of its geographic location, Westerners will most likely continue to dominate, he said. HME