ATLANTA – Behind the scenes of the recently completed Medtrade lurked a familiar face in a new role. With a crisp bow tie and calm demeanor, Mark Lind morphed from associate show director to show director for 2019’s premiere HME-focused trade show.
Medtrade attendees are used to seeing Kevin Gaffney in the show director role, and Gaffney’s presence will continue to be felt in his capacity as vice president and group show director. “The information, training, and guidance that Kevin has shared over the last four years is remarkable,” Lind says. “I would not have had the opportunity to take over the show if it wasn’t for that.”
Medtrade Monday had a chance to sit down with Lind as Medtrade Spring and Medtrade head into a new decade in the always challenging world of HME.
Medtrade Monday: What is your trade show background?
Lind: I’ve been in trade shows going on 17 years. Right before I came to Emerald four years ago, I was at America’s Mart, and I was a trade show sales executive—trying to get business to come into America’s Mart during off times of the Mart. I was in charge of bringing in trade shows into our empty space when America’s Mart events were not going on. My first foray into the trade show world was in the gift industry, and I’ve worked for GES, as well as some booth builders. I spent my beginning career in retail, plus retail management for CVS and Target prior to getting into trade shows.
Medtrade Monday: What’s your fondest memory of Medtrade in your four years working on the show?
Lind: I remember walking into my first Medtrade and hearing stories about what was going on in the industry in the old days and the so-called golden commode era. I expected a lot a of pessimism, but it was a great show. I came into Medtrade with a clean slate and I saw vibrant show and a thriving business.
Medtrade Monday: What has been your role over the last four years with Medtrade prior to taking over as show director?
Lind: So when I first hired on, I was a sales manager for Healthcare Design [annual trade show] and Environments For Aging [annual trade show]. After about a year, I transitioned to Medtrade as a sales manager. In November 2018, I moved into associate show director. I still have those roles of associate show director on EFA and HCD.
Medtrade Monday: What’s the biggest challenge about Medtrade?
Lind: Getting rid of that legacy thinking of the golden commode days has been a challenge. It’s a challenge to get into the industry and really see what is going on. I know reimbursements are down and providers have gone out of business, but it’s an amazing group of people at the core. Some of that legacy thinking is holding some people back from being more successful in this space. They can’t get past what it used to be, and that’s my biggest frustration, because we need to be forward thinking.
Medtrade Monday: As far as your role, what new responsibilities do you have?
Lind: I would say it’s the whole show now. We’re looking at all facets of the show. What relationships can be rekindled and rebuilt, or added onto? Kevin Gaffney served as a great mentor, and I’m very fortunate to have that. There are a lot of new mindsets, and I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get some different looks at the show that maybe haven’t been common in the past.
Medtrade Monday: What is the mindset of a good show director?
Lind: I think it’s to expect the unexpected. Just know that every show situation is going to be different. I think the mindset is knowing that somebody on the other side is as passionate about what they’re doing as what I’m doing. You just have to hold firm and hold the integrity. Even my wife says she never sees me rattled. If anybody knew me 25 years ago, it might be a different story, but it helps being through some different situations. My background is in retail, and I started managing people when I was 17. I think that has only helped to get me where I am today. I know that something is going to go wrong and nothing is going to be perfect. I just think rolling with the punches is the best way to be as a show director or in trade shows in general.
Medtrade Monday: Why do you think face-to-face trade shows are still relevant in 2019?
Lind: I think more so now than ever. At the root of us as people, we want that experience. We want interaction. There’s nothing better than going somewhere and looking somebody in the eye. You can say what you want behind a phone call, you can say what you want behind an email, you can say what you want on Facebook and Twitter—but at the root of it, we’re still an interactive people. Especially at Medtrade, providers want to trust that that person on the other side [the manufacturer] is going to give what they want, and vice versa.
What I’ve experienced, whether it’s kids or younger folks that I’ve interacted with, or my own, they still want to pick up the phone and talk to somebody, but also when they meet them, they want that experience, they want to engage. In the business world, that is so important, because it’s a trust. I think also that the new generation has a lot of information at their finger tips, but they still want to look at somebody in the eye and say, ‘Okay you tell me this product is going to do this,’ and they want to see how you’re going to react and not just assume that the email is going to be enough. Across the board, you’re starting to see younger folks come to shows and come to events. A few years ago there was the virtual trade show, and you don’t hear that anymore, because there still is that need for in-person interaction. The human factor of having interaction I don’t think is ever going to go away.
Medtrade Monday: What are your hopes and expectations for the future of Medtrade?
Lind: Certainly the new competitive bidding results [for 2021] are going to be a huge factor. However, the products provided in the HME space are need products, and people are just getting older. I just see a lot of different changes. Again, we have new leadership, and the Medtrade brand is obviously a stalwart. It’s been around for 40-plus years, and it’s just not going away. I foresee it changing and morphing.
Everything is on the table. Attendees want education. They want to learn, they want facts. I see conferences continuing to get better with better feedback. I think that’s going to be where Medtrade goes. The trade show is still going to be there, and that’s what we need. But also, the conference side I foresee is kind of a stronger future.
Medtrade Monday: Might that include dedicated time for conference and expo?
Lind: Correct. We already have expo hours only and conference hours only for some of the time. I guess the over-arching message is that nothing is off the table at this point. We want to first serve our attendee base and those folks, and find out what they want most. An important fact to name is that we take those surveys seriously, and we look at them, and the more responses we have, the better data we have. Answer your surveys, because we listen.
Next week’s Medtrade Monday features an interview with Kevin Gaffney, vice president and group show director, Medtrade.