Market Insight

Are big MedTech trade shows dying?

By Matthew Henshaw

Nov 07, 2022 · 3 min read

Following my #spineroadtripUSA, I shared some thoughts about NASS. Following Eurospine and DKOU last week, I wanted to elaborate on some of the points over the next couple of weeks.

So, are big trade shows like NASS and Eurospine, losing their appeal for device manufacturers?

Over the last couple of months, I have documented my trips to NASS, Eurospine and DKOU and the general reaction I get from my clients are: they are becoming less and less convinced these shows are worth the, in some cases, 6-figure investment. By the time a Company has spent money on a booth, their employee’s travel and accommodation, as well as dining and entertainment, the bill is often well over $100-200k. Furthermore, when you take into consideration the increased popularity of virtual meetings, the number of surgeon attendees is dropping, I believe the number of surgeon attendees at NASS this year was just north of 500. Companies are asking if the juice is worth the squeeze. Can meet a handful of surgeons, plus distributors and recruiters justify spending that amount of money?


Alongside the notable absence of NuVasive for the last two events, several of my clients have already considered pulling out of future events, thinking setting up a private event near the venue has a much higher value for money and a higher return on investment. You only have to look at the size of the booths. Depuy and Medtronic have heavily reduced their footprint at NASS opting for much smaller floor space. Another group of manufacturers feel they had more success by having small meeting suites around the perimeter of the floor when they could have a surgeon’s full attention for a 15-minute window.


So, can anything change to increase surgeon attendance and keep the events live and well?

Honestly, I don’t know. Are the CME points worth the trip for the surgeons? Probably not, last year, although affected by COVID, a lot of surgeons were either not allowed to attend the event for health and safety reasons, but also being located out of Boston, many West Coast surgeons didn’t want to attend. Again, with the emergence of virtual conferences, what is the value for the surgeon to take a 3 or 4-day break from their day job?



One of the coolest things I saw at this year’s conferences was the live cadaver labs at DKOU and NASS. In both Chicago and Berlin, punters could observe new technology being implanted by top surgeons from the exhibition floor. These kinds of events might be one way to attract more interest. But will it be enough? Who knows. What other ideas or gimmicks can be used to keep conferences fresh, once the novelty of on-floor labs gets old?



I’m not going to pretend I understand the inner workings of the relationships between conference organisers, societies and manufacturers, but I have heard of some discourse. Whether societies restrict the manufacturers’ freedom or try to control too much, or overcharge for floor space, I’m not an expert. But perhaps this is something that could be discussed to satisfy all parties. After all, for these events to work, they need all parties to attend.   



I don’t think this is the end. Yet. It’s easy for companies to say they will pull out of future events and host private meetings nearby. But if enough Companies pull out, the number of surgeon attendees will decrease, therefore the periphery events also won’t work. However, I do believe something needs to change. Whether that is from a political standpoint or a pricing standpoint, I don’t know. But I think open dialogue between all parties is a must if we want these events to continue long-term.


Matthew Henshaw is the Founder and CEO of Talanoa, he acts as a recruitment strategist and startup mentor in the medical device industry.

Connect with Matthew on LinkedIn and feel free to talk about your business and talent plans. Let’s see if I can help with my expertise or my own network.


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Market Insight Nov 07, 2022

Are big MedTech trade shows dying?