By Mark Mensh
I avoid industry conferences. They are largely a waste of time and money with lots of sales pitches and very little real information. The one exception to this is NAB. Compared to every other industry conference I’ve attended, it’s shockingly productive for both attendees and vendors. Instead of attempting to understand this anomaly, I’d like to offer a handful of tips for those of you attending to get the most out of it.
Calendar: This is the most important thing. Prior to the show, you should make it a point to reach your most important vendors or customers and get on their schedule. Have an agenda for the meeting and be sure the right people on both sides are available.
Pro Tip: With so many people arriving from time zones around the world, it is an inescapable probability that somebody’s calendar will be messed up and your 9am meeting on Tuesday will be a noon meeting on their calendar. To mitigate the amount this happens, be sure and include with all of your communications actual text that states the time. For example: Discussion on project status in Avid Booth at 10AM Las Vegas Time on Wednesday. We’re using Calendly for scheduling appointments this year. We’ll let you know how it goes.
Pro Tip #2: The last day of the show is usually slow. For attendees, it’s a great time to visit otherwise busy booths and get the vendor’s undivided attention.
Clothing: I have strong opinions on this but will restrict myself to only one item: shoes. It’s the most important item in your wardrobe. If you’re in a booth, you’re standing for 9 or 10 hours/day. If you’re not, then you’re walking miles on hard floors and standing for much of that. Chairs and tables are expenses for vendors and there are never enough. This is not the time to try out a new pair of shoes.
Pro Tip: If you’ve got an old pair of proven walkers, then shine them up and pack them. Our CEO, Paul Adrian always wears his cowboy boots, but they’re not new. It’s the Texan in him and he says boots are made for walking. Me, I’ll stick to the old brown shoes.
Food: There is a never-ending supply of excellent food in Vegas, but it’s not your job to eat all of it. NAB is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself. If you know you’ve got a big vendor dinner at night at a terrific restaurant, go easy on lunch.
Pro Tip: It’s easy at a good show to run out of time for lunch. As a vendor, I can tell you that I’m not going to miss talking to a customer for an exhibition hall hamburger. Pack a snack for the exhibitor hall that will give you enough energy so you can skip lunch if you have to.
Water: This is simple. Always keep water handy. It’s astonishing how easy it is to get dehydrated at the show. Remember, you’re in the desert. Yeah. Vegas, baby.
Pro Tip for Vendors: If you keep a cooler or fridge filled with bottled water, your customers will thank you. It’s thoughtful, useful and makes your booth a welcome respite from the rigors of the floor.
Networking: Behind all the announcements, press releases, seminars, keynotes and new product rollouts are people. Year in and year out, the success of your efforts at NAB rely on what happens with the people you meet. Here are some basics to make the most of that:
- Business cards. Bring plenty. Give one to everyone you meet.
- Take notes. You may have 7 or 8 meaningful conversations in a day filled with technology minutiae and you will not remember it. We use several note taking apps. Here’s a list of some of the better notes apps. Going old school ain’t bad either: pen and paper still works in a jam.
- Be genuine. Treat everyone with equal respect. Staring at someone’s nametag to determine if they’re important enough to talk to makes you a…
…not a donkey.
Don’t be a…
…again, not a donkey.
- Be considerate of other people’s time. If you have a 30-minute meeting, you may go for 31 minutes, but not 40. Everyone’s busy. Get the information you need and if there’s follow up to be done, do it after the show.
- Make introductions. This is a chance to meet and thank the engineer who made your product work or the product manager who expedited the feature your CTO requested.
Pro Tip: Always consider what you can do for the person you’re meeting; not just what they can do for you. Even if it doesn’t profit you, offer to be of help. This is in the “just do good at every opportunity” category, but I can assure you that it comes back to you in the best ways.
“If you don’t want to be there, then don’t go. Cynicism is a turn off and enthusiasm is contagious.” — Laura Lyster-Mensh
Pro Tip #2: This one comes from my bride who’s attended even more conferences than me. If you don’t want to be there, then don’t go. People can tell. Cynicism is a turn off and enthusiasm is contagious.
Finally, we need to address a persistent local myth you’ll undoubtedly hear at NAB 2016. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” If you’re heading to NAB with this refrain in your head, then be advised: “Nothing stays in Vegas.” And yes, strange things happen. Cameras work in Las Vegas, phones work in Las Vegas and tongues wag in Las Vegas. Ad to that the fact that you’re surrounded by people who work with you, buy from you or sell to you. If you’re planning to get into mischief during your week at NAB, then don’t be surprised if that legacy haunts you for the next ten years. Or, to quote my wife “Honey, what happens in Vegas, better not happen in Vegas.” Not sure if this is the same as “You know why!”
Pro Tip: Take a book. I’m currently reading three: “Unfinished Business: the Life and Times of Danny Gatton,” by Ralph Heibutzki, “Influence” by Robert Cialdini, “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein (re-reading this one). Paul is reading “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr and “Gathering Prey,” by John Sandford.
(Mark Mensh is latakoo’s Vice President of Sales. He’s attended NAB seven times in the last ten years. He would love to meet you at NAB. He and Paul Adrian will be in Avid’s booth SU902. Please reach out to Mark or Paul if you would like to connect.)