Making the Most of Medtrade

Medtrade is the largest and most comprehensive event for the home health care industry. While it only lasts for a few short days in October, the key to making the most of your Medtrade experience is planning. Follow the suggestions I have listed below to take your preparation to a whole new level. Review this list before diving into Medtrade; it will make the swim all the more pleasant.

1. Get a shoe check

Medtrade is only for those who have either good feet or have made arrangements for a mobility product to use during the show. Wear shoes that do not need breaking-in. You will be walking many miles. Dress comfortably and enjoy your visit. You do not want to be sitting in pain and missing out on the opportunity to see new products, make important purchases and meet new people. You also may want to bring several pairs of comfortable shoes. Changing shoes during the day often makes the walk more bearable. And of course, arrive in New Orleans well-rested for a full schedule of events.

2. Use the show directory

The show directory is your survival guide during your stay. It has the map of the city, the show floor and a list of all seminars. It will save you extra steps and lots of time. Read it from cover to cover, mark it up and use it as your appointment and daytime planner. It tells you where you need to be and when to be there. Also make sure you take it home. It is a great reference guide to use when trying to locate companies and conference faculty members from the show.

3. Make appointments before attending

Before attending Medtrade, make a list of the people you need to meet, schedule appointments and places to meet and then verify these appointments. Ask these people how they can be reached during the show. Trying to reach someone at Medtrade is not always the easiest of tasks, so planning before the show is extremely important and time saving. You may want to set up appointments to meet with exhibitors rather than stopping by as this will ultimately save you time and ensure that you will have their undivided attention.

While you are scheduling appointments, make sure you have reviewed the list of special programs that are offered a day before Medtrade opens. Monday, Oct. 22, there will be special programs on accreditation, sessions sponsored by the American Association for Homecare, and educational and training sessions by certain manufacturers. Select at least one session that will provide you with information from Washington D.C. on new and pending legislation. While there are several sessions being presented that will offer you the latest information about new legislative issues, try to attend at least one. Medtrade is the place to get informed on the latest information from Washington D.C. Numerous associations and legal firms will be sponsoring programs that will let you in on all the latest news on the political scene.

4. Review your purchasing needs

Take a look in your warehouse before you board the plane to Medtrade. Talk to associates in your purchasing department to determine what products are needed, and the quantity needed for the show. Are there certain product lines that should receive most of your attention? If you are expanding your business into the retail market, you may want to look at different products that are not part of your usual inventory. Although you may be purchasing at Medtrade, you may want to decide ahead of time what catalogues you want to pick up and bring back to the office for further reference and to share with your colleagues. Don't forget to look for special deals on the trade show floor; many manufacturers offer special deals for purchases made at Medtrade. Ask about them and note any that are being advertised. This may save you a great deal of money and make the trip just that more valuable. There are special deals on shipping costs and products all over the trade show floor, so keep you eyes open.

5. Select what staff will attend which seminars

Since most companies bring several staff members to Medtrade, it is important to carefully select which programs will be important for certain people to attend. The rehabilitation specialists will find a large selection of programs important to them, while those in billing and reimbursement will want to check out seminars of value to their staff and departments. Try to cover as many programs as possible. You will find seminars from rehabilitation professionals, billing or reimbursement staff, marketing and sales and management.

In addition to attending seminars, get the most out of the conference by taking a moment to print out the handouts from the seminars you will be attending. Keep in mind your conference registration gives you access to all the handouts from every session scheduled. These materials also can be accessed when you return home. You will be able to duplicate multiple copies for use in training your staff once you arrive home. Use the handouts to develop sales and marketing programs for your company and to bring with you as you develop questions to ask Medtrade faculty. Since handouts are only available through the Medtrade Web site at, you need to plan ahead. For those handouts you did not have the opportunity to print out before Medtrade, you will have the opportunity to do so for a short time upon your return home.

6. Make a list of the questions you want to ask exhibitors or consultants who will be at the show

With access to more than 100 speakers, you will have the opportunity to meet many nationally recognized consultants, therapists and managers. If there are particular questions or information you would want from these people, give them your business card, noting what information you would like or possibly ways they can help you. If you have questions about particular products, shipping costs or maintenance issues, there will certainly be someone at the show ready to answer your questions. Send a note around your office asking people to submit questions they would like answered or indicate areas where they would like information. When more than 25,000 industry professionals come together, it is the easiest place to locate the answers to important business questions.

7. Determine what new products you want to see

Take some risks. Begin looking for products that will expand your product line. Talk to your office colleagues about what customers have been asking for and learn about what other products you could or should be stocking. Make a list of what you would be interested in seeing and hearing about, and make a plan to get the information you need.

8. Make those dinner reservations before landing in New Orleans

The food and music that New Orleans has to offer has helped the city become one of the most popular convention cities in the United States. Please be ready to contact the convention bureau in the convention center to make reservations for you or call the restaurant ahead of time. Plan your dinner events and social gatherings now and make sure you are getting a real taste of the world's most famous cuisine. Don't forget to attend the networking socials, if you have not done so. Register on site for the conference, plan lunch with colleagues and take some breaks with people you do not often get to meet with.

9. Bring plenty of business cards

And I mean lots of cards. Too often we hear people say they are out of cards. Bring about 100 cards with you. It is a long three days, and you will be meetings hundreds of people. If you do not have a card, you may lose out on an important networking contact. Make sure you have checked your business card inventory and if necessary, go to the print shop to order more cards. It is too difficult to locate a printer when you are traveling; make sure you come prepared. You are about to attend the biggest networking event in the industry, and you must be ready to leave people a way to contact you. Make sure your business card has information about all the ways to contact you including your e-mail address.

10. Identify which manufacturers you definitely want to locate.

With access to more than 1,100 manufacturers on the trade show floor, you will want to first make sure you visit the ones you definitely want to see. Take note of their exhibit number and location on the trade show floor. Once you identify the product lines you are interested in, you can begin to identify the manufacturers on your must-see list. Take some time to review the extensive Medtrade trade show. Mark on the floor plan the companies you want to see and make a list of their exhibit numbers.

Get ready for the show of the year and take a few moments to review this list again just before you head out the door to Medtrade in New Orleans, Oct. 23 - 25. While Medtrade has often been described as overwhelming, with proper planning it will be the most exciting trade show and conference you have ever attended.

Okay, now one last reminder of the most important element on the tips for making sure you have a successful event - the shoes. You may think I am kidding, but those who have been there before will advise you on this issue. I will be able to tell by looking at your shoes if you are new to the Medtrade experience. So prepare now. Medtrade will take care of your head--filling it with state-of-the-art information and technology--and you just need to handle all the rest.

This article originally appeared in the September 2001 issue of HME Business.

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