Medtrade 2020: Pondering possibilities

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06/09/2020
Mark Lind

ATLANTA – What will the Nov. 2-4 Medtrade look like in 2020? Wider aisles, sanitation stations, dedicated entrances/exits and reimagined registration areas are all on the table. The Medtrade team is discussing these and other possibilities for putting on the event coming out of the COVID-19 situation.

The March 3-5 Medtrade Spring in Las Vegas seems like a lifetime ago, and since then trade shows across the country have been canceled or put on virtually to varying degrees. As caretakers of the Medtrade show, we are taking a serious look at what the event at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) might look like.

Fortunately, our partners at the GWCC believe strongly, as do we, that the health and safety of attendees must be the top priority. With that in mind, the GWCC recently announced their commitment to achieve GBAC (Global Biorisk Advisory Council) STAR accreditation for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention. They know, and we know, that this is a difficult time for many. Our team is here to tend to exhibitors’ business needs, as well as the concerns and questions of attendees.

While we are planning on staging, we are considering a virtual component after the show for folks who are not able to attend. We use the term bolt-on or add-on component. That could be webinars or full conference recaps after the show.

With the show still about five months away, we did not seriously contemplate the idea of going “full virtual” and/or canceling the event at this point. In fact, the Medtrade team and the EAB are optimistic, and I, too, am hopeful. That said, we can't be overly optimistic and we must have backup plans. As we sit here today, we intend to have the show in November in Atlanta. That is the goal.

For their part, EAB members sifted through presentation submissions, which had trickled in at first due to the COVID crisis, but picked up considerably after an extension. Medtrade usually receives more than 100 presentation submissions. This year, we ended up just shy of that number, but I was pleasantly surprised. The quality was solid and, in some cases, it was obvious that people had even more time to plan out their topics in detail.

Not surprisingly, there are several COVID-related topics and panels planned, primarily dealing with lessons learned and business operations during a crisis. Considering potential future guidelines, we planned to be ready for the question: Should we reduce the amount of conference sessions or make them smaller with socially distanced seating? If that happens, should Medtrade increase the number of conference sessions to account for the smaller classes?

All of those are on the table. We will consider the safety of every attendee first and foremost, while following the rules and regulations set out by the state and the facility. We will not be hasty in those decisions, and we’ll be developing an onsite preparedness plan that will account for many eventualities.

All of the above goes to the “what” of a possible staging in November, but what of the why? Some have asked: How relevant are in-person trade shows in 2020? I admit to being biased on the topic, but we’ve been asking the question and, thus far, the answer has been consistent: Face-to-face interaction is not dead, in fact, the craving for in-person networking may indeed be stronger.

Could it be that after all the pain, isolation and real human suffering that we are more inclined to seek each other out? It’s true that I’m in the trade show business, but it’s also true that I’m here because I’m a people person. We may not shake hands in the same manner, and perhaps hugs will be a bit more scarce, but seeing eye to eye remains important.

The idea of handling equipment and meeting (safely) so many people in a few days remains an amazing opportunity that has worked for quite a long time. I for one believe that Medtrade will endure, much like the HME providers who have proven so resilient throughout the years. I look forward to seeing you in Atlanta.

Mark Lind is show director for Medtrade and Medtrade Spring.