For all people involved in the technical aspects of professional television, the annual National Association of Broadcasters Convention (NAB) is the key event of the year.
The show is massive and the numbers only tell part of the story: Over 90 thousand attendees; more than 1600 exhibitors; an exhibit floor with over 850,000 square feet of space. Some exhibitors derive more than 50% of their yearly sales from their presence at NAB… that means that if you fail to make an impression there, you are in trouble!
I have been a regular attendee at this yearly gathering since 1986. The first few times that you come here you learn a lot and you discover a lot. After a few years, it becomes mainly an incremental affair. You know most exhibitors and most products and you tend to focus on what’s new.
Through the years, I have developed a methodology to make sense of that huge show and try not to missed anything significant. I focus first on the smaller, new exhibitors, those who have less chances of grabbing the headlines and are easier to miss. This is not always easy… there is a lot of small booths and not all are innovative companies. Also, those who are innovative don’t always know how to show it! It’s also easy to waste time by stopping at booth that you though were innovative but was just another packager of SAN products or some other vendors that don’t bring much value. However, by sticking to a strict timeline and organized tour of the various hall, I generally manage not to missed too much.
Another easy way to loose time is to get stuck in meeting during the show. A lot of salespeople want to get your time to show their product and wants to minimize your time to see their competition. NAB exhibition is only open for a total of 32 hours, if you subtract time to walk from one thing to another and time to eat, that’s not a lot of time to see it all! I have friends you came here in the past for two days only and were basically booked in meetings with vendors the whole time having no time left to discover anything new!
I typically do all my discovery on the first days pushing any important meeting to Wednesday afternoon of Thursday. This gives me time to first fulfill my main goal which is to discover new significant things. Also, the vendors are typically no as busy on the last days so you get more “quality time” with them. In fact, among exhibitors, the last day (Thursday) is known as “industry day” since there are few visitors left and you mainly see other exhibitors visiting your booth (through the years I have been an exhibitors eight times here).
One hard thing here is lunch. The choices are limited and the prices are high. Some years I would take a break and go out at the near-by Las Vegas Hilton (which is now the “Las Vegas Hotel”) and eat at their buffet which is a less crowded, cheaper and better options than the LVCC (Las Vegas Convention Center) food options. Last year, I solved the lunch issue entirely by bringing nuts in my bag and eating it for lunch. Exhibitors will offer you water regularly (and you know that you never decline water in the desert!) and some serve coffee and other treats. Doing that save previous time and it’s better for both your diet and wallet!
At night, it’s always good to start with a free drink at one of the numerous happy hours that vendors organize but don’t stick there too long it can end up being not such a nice experience when people begins to get drunk.
Restaurants in Vegas can be VERY crowded during NAB so I tend to avoid eating on the strip as much as possible. I like going to Las Vegas “Chinatown” on Spring Mountain Rd west to the I-15. Also, there is quite a few good and cheap place around downtown. You can find my restaurant’s list on Yelp here (all add some more in the weeks leading to NAB).
Also, we have a tradition that started over 10 years ago where we are gathering with friends at a Korean BBQ restaurant on one night. If you are reading this blog and wants to join us, drop me a note!
I will be covering the NAB on a daily basis on this blog starting on Saturday,April 14 so make sure to bookmark it and come back!