NAB Convention Tips from a Veteran

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As I was making travel plans for the upcoming NAB convention in Las Vegas, I was reminded of my first NAB almost 15 years ago. It was probably the fact I booked a room at the same hotel as my first NAB trip. I thought back over the years and the shows, the people, the experiences and all the things I had learned. Not only things I had learned about technology but also about myself as an engineer and as a professional. The biggest thing I learned though was how to get around the convention. Let's face it, 15 years ago the convention was huge. Today "huge" is an understatement.

The convention halls were smaller and you primarily had the Radio Hall, which coincidentally has now grown in size several times over but is still the Radio Hall. In the South Hall (now Central) was the Television Hall. Sure there were radio items here, but this was where the TV people were looking at the newest helicopters, news trucks, cameras, graphics packages and studio lighting systems. And there was a small display of satellite trucks and mobile production trucks in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center. It's still the Television Hall but it's larger, has more vendors and is a daylong stop on the way to the even larger Multimedia Hall. Today the Multimedia Hall houses Microsoft, Sun and a who's who of Silicon Valley and the computer industry.

We have radio, television, satellite, Internet, software and everything you can imagine that provides support services and hardware for those branches of the business. The Las Vegas Convention Center has grown several times over in size. And there are still the sessions both at the convention center as well as the Hilton next door. The show is also a meeting place for not only the NAB but also the SBE, RTNDA as well as several other smaller groups and group meetings for many companies.

Remembering back to my first trip to the NAB I was reminded of how much of a novice I was at the time. I'm by no means a pro at getting around but after nearly 15 conventions, I do ok I think. It got me thinking, "I wish someone would have told me…" before I got there. I thought that maybe my mistakes and successes over the years might be helpful to new attendees. So here are a few suggestions from someone who's been around the floor at least a couple of times.

Dress successfully
Bring a couple of pair of comfortable shoes. You're going to be walking. Just walking from one end of the show to the other will put a few miles on your favorite shoes. Factor in about a thousand stops as you move from booth to booth and hall to hall and you're going to leave the show feeling like you have just completed a marathon each day. Maybe more if you arrive for the weekend sessions.

Dress business casual at least. You will interact with your peers and people that some day may be your boss or you may be their boss. I know a lot of guys wear suits while perusing the show floor. That's great if you wear a suit on a regular basis. If you don't wear a suit on a regular basis, that's fine too but at least look nice. You're there representing not only fellow engineers but also your employer. You never know who you're going to run into. One of the first shows I went to I ended up standing next to the vice president of engineering for a large radio company. Being a young, starry eyed engineer from Fort Wayne, IN, I was in awe of the caliber of people that I was interacting with and no one judged me because I was the new kid. Be prepared to interact with some of the smartest and brightest people in the business. You never know when opportunity may strike.

Don't be afraid to interact with others at the exhibits. One of the prime missions everyone should take to the show outside of viewing the exhibits is to gain new friends and acquaintances and to share ideas and knowledge. Let's face it; the NAB is a huge opportunity for an open exchange of information with your peers. It's why you are there. Never be afraid to ask questions and take notes. Collect business cards and have a large stack to give out. Even if you have to make your own, have something to leave with that person you spent 20 minutes discussing the merits of a new piece of equipment or a new idea. We're in this together, I want to remember your name but I'm going to meet as many people as you do, I can't remember everyone's names so give me something as a reminder.

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