Hats off to Bob Miglino and all the staff at Focus for pulling off a successful respiratory conference in April 2001.

By Tony Ramos

Launching a successful healthcare trade show in 2001 is about as easy as making money investing in high-tech industries. The market for these trade shows is already crowded, in some cases saturated, and trying to attract exhibitors and show attendees is entering extremely tenuous territory. For these reasons, hats off to Bob Miglino and all the staff at Focus for pulling off a successful respiratory conference in April.

The Focus on Respiratory Care Conference had just enough exhibitors and attendees to warrant everyone coming back next year when the show will be held in St Louis on April 25-27. From the moment the conference kicked off on April 5, it exuded a sense of enthusiasm and energy not normally found on most trade show floors. I am sure it had something to do with the free food and beverages, roaming barber shop quartet, the appearance of baseball great Brooks “Hoover” Robinson, and a school bus decorated with prize-winning balloons located in the middle of the exhibit hall, or the woman on stilts dressed like the Statue of Liberty. While these kinds of festive and entertaining activities would not be appropriate for every trade show, it somehow worked at the Focus Conference. For the exhibitors, the exhibit hall remained active for most of the time that it was open, and for the attendees, there was a good mix of educational programs and enough time to visit with the manufacturers and to network.

Thursday night featured a free concert by Don McLean, and while he did not get around to singing his hit song “American Pie” until it was well past most people’s bedtime (are we really getting that old?), the concert capped off a good first day. Friday’s after-show activity included a visit to Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and based on Friday’s level of exhibit hall activity, the Focus Conference by this time would have satisfied Mick Jagger. Judging by the people who stopped by our booth to pick up a copy of RT Magazine and sign up for a free subscription, the majority of the attendees were respiratory care directors, supervisors, managers, and staff therapists, as well as a smattering of nurse professionals. The exhibitors with whom I spoke were pleased enough with the results from the show to definitely exhibit or at least consider exhibiting at next year’s Focus Conference. As for the attendees, most everybody seemed happy with the broad range of topics in the educational programs, and with the opportunity to interact with their peers in an upbeat and energetic business environment.

While it certainly is true that most people involved in the health care industry would love to see fewer trade shows and a consolidation of efforts by the organizers, the fact remains that the associations that sponsor trade shows are not going to give up their conferences, and independent show producers will continue with their efforts as long as companies continue to exhibit and as long as there are enough attendees. As for myself, I have never been to a trade show that I did not like. Regardless of the overall attendance, the time of the year, or the location, I have always found trade shows to be worthwhile.

For exhibitors, this means lots of pre-show planning and promotion, and for attendees, this means spending as much time on the exhibit floor meeting with the manufacturers and networking with their peers as they spend in seminars. Among the most well-received articles in RT are our facility profiles, which cover successful and innovative respiratory departments. Just like reading RT’s facility profiles are a great way to learn how others across the country are providing quality respiratory care in a cost-effective manner, RCPs can learn a lot simply by networking with one another at trade shows. For shows like the Focus Conference to succeed and grow, they will need to continue to draw exhibitors and attendees, provide exhibitors with a meaningful business environment, and provide attendees with enough educational and networking opportunities to justify the time and expense. Fortunately for Bob Miglino and his staff, they hit a stand up double in Cleveland. With next year’s conference being held in St Louis, do what Mark McGwire would do…swing for the fence.


Tony Ramos is the former publisher of RT. For more information, contact [email protected].