VGM’s Heartland ploughs up praise

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

WATERLOO, Iowa - The hundreds of providers who attended VGM’s Heartland Conference in June devoured a 200+ pound pig during the opening day hog roast and then moved on to the event’s main course: a cornucopia of educational seminars and network opportunities.
Heartland Conference attendees wonder whether farming is an easier row to hoe than HME these days.

In all, 725 people attended the June 1-4 event. In addition to the 450 providers, attendees included 225 people representing 78 vendors and 50 speakers who delivered more than 70 educational seminars. The show’s education tracks covered rehab, respiratory and general DME.

As in past years, the show’s Midwest hospitality (fireworks, a pig roast, a dinner and dance party), intentional small size (about 20,000 providers attend Medtrade) and intense focus on education struck a chord with attendees.

“Medtrade is immense, more frenetic and you have to fight for attention, but here you can get all the attention you want,” said Gerry Dickerson, director of rehab for Medstar Surgical in Queens, N.Y. “Heartland is more intimate.”

“It’s not quantity, it’s quality,” added provider Enrique Toro, president of KTG in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

A bigger, less rural venue might be easier to access, but it also would be much more expensive, said Jim Walsh, president of VGM Management.

“We’ve had some people say, ‘Why do I have to come to Waterloo,’” he said. “We can do the show here because we have our employees here. We have 75 people who can work on this.”

Heartland’s recipe for success, Walsh added, is simple: Don’t waste the attendees time.

“We don’t want to fill the show floor with people who sell purses and have speakers on things no one wants to hear.”