The NAB Show is coming up in just a couple of weeks, and if you’re planning on going this year (you should), then you need to know what you need to know.
First read Chris Potter’s post “10 Tips for Success at NAB“. It’s at least 90% accurate. Personally, my “alone time” (tip #4) tends to be in my hotel room, where I can drop off my handouts and swag, grab a cold drink, take a deep breath, then set out for another few hours of intense learning and interaction. And that’s part of the reason I disagree with tip #7, Get Off The Strip. Having a convenient hotel means having one within walking distance, or maybe on the monorail. The energy you lose by driving in and parking is worse than what you lose by having to line up at a buffet. But Potter’s post is a must-read, so go read it already!
Having said all that, here’s a reprint of my convention survival guide. I wrote it a few years ago with NAB in mind, but it’s good almost anywhere.
- Wear comfortable shoes. This is the highest priority, because if you have bad shoes, it can ruin the whole show for you. You will be walking. A lot. On hard surfaces. Most of the time, when you’re not walking, you’ll be standing. Unless you’re used to being on your feet all day, they won’t be happy with this. Find those comfy shoes now and break them in before you arrive.
- Have a plan, but don’t expect to stick to it. Make note of the high points that you absolutely have to see. Add some topics that sound interesting, but which don’t have the same high priority. Make a list of exhibitors you want to meet. Then walk onto the floor with the expectation that your schedule may change. There will be a lot of interesting stuff out there, including something you never thought of. Don’t be afraid to set aside what looked good yesterday when you want to learn more about something that’s amazingly cool today.
- Bring food. It shouldn’t be a lot. A PowerBar or Clif Bar or maybe even a Snickers will do. If you prefer something warm and mediocre, you can take a half hour to wait in line, pay too much, then struggle to find a place to eat lunch. Or you can unwrap a protein bar from your pocket or bag and munch on it as you sit and watch an exhibitor’s presentation. Save your time to visit more booths, and save your money for a real meal after the exhibit hall closes for the night.
- Drink, especially water. The air is dry in Las Vegas, and hours of walking and standing take more effort than sitting around all day. Dehydration will make you and your muscles feel more tired. When you pass a water fountain, take a drink. Consider bringing a small refillable bottle. And when any exhibitor offers any kind of liquid refreshment, it’s probably a good idea to take it. Come to think of it, that’s good advice on any occasion, isn’t it? (I moved this up, because that small bottle goes well with your PowerBar snack.)
- Get a lightweight map. If there’s an application with a map that you can load on your smartphone, (such as the NAB app), that’s the lightest map you can get. Otherwise, get the map that weighs the least. When you remember that you wanted to visit TooCool’s booth, you’ll want to know where to find it. When you want to find the nearest rest room, you’ll definitely be thankful for the map. (Update: The best rest rooms in the LVCC are along the southeast wall of Central Hall. Keep that in mind when you’re in the neighborhood.)
- Beware of heavy freebies. There are so many great things for free at a big show. Free magazines. Free catalogs. Pens. Paperweights. Bags for carrying them all. You can probably haul around all the pens that you’ll get, but anything that feels a little heavy at 11 is going to be a burden by 4. If you really need that two-inch-thick catalog, plan to pick it up as you leave for the night.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Seriously.
- Choose your bag well. With all those fliers and freebies, you’ll probably also want a free bag to carry them around. Don’t just grab the first one you see. Make sure your bag is substantial enough to carry the boxed iPad you hope to win. Make sure it won’t embarrass you because it’s made of coated paper, has a garish promotion on the side, has a long handle made of twine, or all three. Better is a bag made of fabric with a tasteful, colorful logo and a short, strong handle. When you see one of those, grab it fast; those are the bags that run out before the show’s over. (Update: solid fabric bags are in the majority these days, which is good. But anything that looks especially cool will still run out, so choose carefully.)
- Time your presentations well. If you pass by a booth with a mob standing around watching a presentation that you’d like to see, make a note of when the next showing will be, then keep moving. If you pass by a booth with a presentation that’s going to start in 10 minutes, have a seat if you think it’ll be of interest to you. Use this 10-minute break to check your schedule, check your email, and get friendly with the folks at the booth. You’ll get the benefit of an unobstructed view of a full presentation and your feet will get the benefit of a full half-hour break. Then get up and walk back to that booth you passed, if it’s about 10 minutes before that next showing.
- For your top priority event, get there early. If your schedule is built around the 2 o’clock show at the 3D Theater, get there at 1:30. If Harrison Ford is signing Star Wars posters at 4, get to his booth by 3. If it’s really that cool, it’ll be that popular too, and you’ll probably be waiting in a long line. If there’s no line when you arrive, hang around the neighborhood until it starts to form. If no line ever forms, make sure you’ve got your schedule right; maybe Harrison isn’t supposed to sign anything until tomorrow.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Okay?