Bird's eye view
Through seven years, four corporate parent names and three show directors, Kevin Bird has been Medtrade's constant.
Now he's the show's new director, stepping up from the role of national sales director to fill the void left by Liz Sommerville, who exited the job in early July to join another division of Nielsen Business Media, the company that manages the Medtrade shows. Bird said his tenure with Medtrade gives him an advantage in managing a show that serves such a complex industry.
"When you're doing a trade show for imprinted sportswear, it's just the economy affecting that industry," he said. "But the HME industry is affected by a lot of different factors. I've seen the ebb and the flow of this industry, so I can prepare for the show's future."
While he doesn't expect to make any substantive changes to the Medtrade formula at this time, Bird said, he's watching as national competitive bidding and other legislative actions unfold, ready to adjust as needed.
"When something changes, we try to change with it. We're constantly striving to stay on top of things," he said. "The value of the show will always remain the same."
There have been noticeable absences from the Medtrade show floor of late--Sunrise Medical chose not to exhibit at Medtrade Spring this year and Drive will not attend Medtrade this fall. Yet Bird insisted these actions aren't part of a trend.
"Our goal certainly is to have every part of the industry there, and I can't speak to their business decision," he said. "But I don't think it has an effect on the show."
The size of the show floor has remained steady in recent years, Bird said, although each year "we lose a bunch and gain a bunch" (a turnover of about 20% a year) when exhibitors sell, merge or find distributors.
Bird still must contend with the drop in provider attendance that occurred at Medtrade 2004 ("that's when all the legislative stuff first hit," he said) that took the 2003 high of 18,000 attendees down to 15,000. Registrations have remained steady at 15,000 since then, and Bird expects the same this year.
While providers may be sending fewer people to Medtrade, those who go are more likely to be key decision-makers, such as company presidents, general managers or owners. Bird said he's also reaching out to a broader base of potential attendees as a way of "bringing more value for the exhibitors," including offering CEUs to attract clinicians such as occupational therapists, physical therapists and case managers.
Despite that outreach, HME providers remain the show's stars.
"Many people have the misperception that we're a show just for vendors," said Bird. "But first and foremost we're for them (HME providers). We want to provide HMEs with a place for everyone to come together to share information and best practices, in one place at one time."