KNOXVILLE, TN – When I attended my first Medtrade nearly 10 years ago, I had no idea what to expect. The week before, I carefully scoured the educational courses and picked out the most relevant and promising sessions for each hour. My coworkers and I loaded our bags with conference handouts and business cards. As we made the four-hour trek from Knoxville to Atlanta, we excitedly chatted about the new products we’d see, the sessions we wanted to hear, and the parties we had heard so much about.
On the first day of Medtrade, there was an energy in the air as people from all across the country convened to learn new and innovative ways to meet their customers’ needs, connect with industry colleagues, and overcome the challenges their businesses were facing. Endless rows of exhibitors awaited as I walked the floors of the tradeshow for what seemed like miles in my new high heels.
I saw seasoned Medtrade veterans in their trusty flats, skillfully weaving their wheeled bags filled with gathered pamphlets as they maneuvered from booth to booth. [Note, this was the only time I wore high heels to Medtrade; there’s too much to experience to be limited by uncomfortable shoes!]
I remember hearing John Gallagher speak for the first time and how inspired I was by the work our industry was doing in Washington. I met all sorts of passionate and knowledgeable suppliers who taught me to think creatively about what our industry does and how we do it. Exhausted and excited, I left at the end of the week with a new energy about the products we were going to offer and the new ways to communicate with our referrals, customers, and family caregivers.
Our industry has undergone some significant changes since those early days, and suppliers are facing some of the toughest battles to date. Each of us has a personal connection to people in the industry who have lost their business, their job, or their hope. Each of us has felt the piercing impact of the industry changes in our own companies. We’re weary warriors who are desperate for a change.
Medtrade is where we go for inspiration—to move beyond where we are. For 35 years, it has served as the epicenter of our industry. This is the place to find new ways to succeed and gain a better understanding of regulations. Medtrade is the place to find new products and determine how to make our business operate more efficiently. It is also a place to learn how to become political champions for our businesses and those we serve. At Medtrade, we learn new ways of thinking about the how, the why, and the return on investment for our business.
I must admit that after nearly a decade, I still get energized as I begin planning for the upcoming show. I look forward to connecting with fellow travelers who are navigating through the troubled waters and discovering new ways to deal with the issues at hand. It’s rejuvenating to meet and reconnect with industry colleagues as we unite in our common goal of creating strong and viable companies that will survive and thrive in today’s marketplace. I hope you’ll join us. I’ll see you there.
Ashley Plauché is executive director of ATHOMES, the Association for Tennessee Home Oxygen & Medical Equipment Services, Knoxville, Tenn.