"I didn't see you at the show." When the spring NAB Show ends, I often say this to people I know were there, but because of the size of the convention, our paths never crossed. The 2010 Radio Show is now behind us, and I can say the same thing, although for very different reasons.
The 2010 Radio Show was not like previous NAB Radio Shows. It was a smaller event. It was cosponsored by the NAB and the RAB. It was held in a new city. And unfortunately, it attracted very few engineers.
For the NAB and RAB, it is likely being considered a successful event. They work on quantity of attendees and exhibitors. From hearing comments from NAB and RAB leaders, they were pleased in general with the event. There were some differences this year compared to previous years, and the NAB and RAB were adjusting along the way.
For a station owner, general manager, sales manager and possibly program director, it was likely a good event. There were lots of opportunities to network with colleagues with those responsibilities.
But for the engineers, I don't think the show was such a success.
There were some shortcomings with the location. The hotel had rooms and events scattered on several floors. Signage was poor. The exhibits (called the Marketplace) and the session rooms were adjacent, and attendees had to go through the Marketplace to enter the session rooms.
The exhibits themselves were table-top displays. Four tables were placed in a square. The aisle between the tables were very narrow. There was little room to navigate, let alone to conduct any business with so many people – including competing manufacturers – crowded together.
When sessions ended, there was a flood of people on the exhibit floor, but they were merely trying to pass through. They weren't stopping at the exhibits.
I heard many exhibitors complain about the cost of the exhibit space. From the exhibitor's standpoint, the price per square foot to exhibit was very high. The NAB/RAB don't think of it as renting a space, but rather reaching an audience. Unfortunately, there wasn't much audience in attendance.
One major change this year: No free exhibits-only passes were issued. The only way to get on the exhibit floor was to pay at least $450. Some exhibitors told me they had to purchase additional badges for their exhibit team to get on the floor.
With no free exhibits-only passes, the organizers excluded most engineers from the region from attending. While the desire of the NAB and RAB was to attract a qualified audience, this move also excluded most regional engineers from dropping in for the day to see what equipment was being shown.
And there was little actual equipment being shown because of the table-top layout.
One way to describe the Radio Show: A regional conference at national convention rates. Many exhibitors told me they had no interest in returning in 2011.
According to the NAB, the Radio Board wants its own convention. Radio tends to get lost at the spring convention. I understand this, however, if the NAB/RAB want to host a fall show, the technical aspect needs to be revised. While stations will pay for managers and owners to attend, they don't want to pay for the engineers to attend. This is unfortunate (and stations need to change that), but it's a reality the show presenters must accept. With the current convention approach, I question the sense in trying to attract technical attendees and equipment manufacturer exhibitors.
The 2011 convention will be in Chicago. We'll see if anything improves.