Tips for attending the NAB Trade Show

added 16 March 2005

Tips for attending the NAB Trade Show
an article by Scott Anderson

This article comes from a discussion on
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If you’re in the market to purchase new video gear anytime soon, then you owe it to yourself to make a pilgramage to Las Vegas for the annual National Association of Broadcasters trade show. Having attended NAB for the past 10 years, I can give you my two cents about attending on the cheap, and some gotchas for first-timers:

Plan on taking two hours to get out of the airport, especially if you arrive at a busy time. I usually arrive Sunday morning, and by then the crush of people has already started. Take a shuttle bus instead of a cab to your hotel. The line is usually much shorter, it’s cheaper, and you can pay for a round-trip ticket when you arrive. Waiting for a cab anywhere in Vegas usually entails a 15 to 45 minute wait (75 minutes at the airport last time I arrived), and can run $10 to $20 for each trip, depending on the distance. That tends to add up in a hurry! Thankfully, the city buses are frequent, reliable, and fairly cheap at two dollars per ride. Get a bus book and carry dollar bills.

All the Official NAB Conference hotels run shuttle buses to and from the Convention Center, but only from about 7-9am and 4-6pm. You don’t have to be staying at the hotel, just show up at the hotel’s bus pickup area and catch a bus. If you’ve registered for a free exhibits pass, you’ll get your credentials ahead of time in the mail, but I’ve never had a bus driver ask me for mine. If the new monorail continues to run, staying at a hotel near the line and buying a 3-day monorail pass might be THE way to get around. The monorail stops right at the convention center.

Staying at one of the offical hotels can be pricey, from at least $100+ per night. You might consider staying at a hotel within walking distance from a conference hotel, then walking to the shuttle. I’ve stayed downtown before ($50/night one year), but it can take a long time or be expensive to get to the convention center each day. Check out for a rundown of hotels, and maps of the strip.

I’ve never paid to attend the classes or seminars, but I’ve always felt that the show floor provided plenty of opportunities for education. In addition to 30-minute mini-seminars and/or sales pitches, there are more industry professionals per square foot than anywhere else, period. I think most folks are very willing to answer your questions, or point you to someone who can. I’ve found most people at NAB to be pretty egoless when it comes to sharing information. Just be sure to find the product specialist and engineers, not the paid spokesmodels. There are plenty of those around, too. Sometimes it’s hard to talk to someone because there are just too many people crowded around wanting to talk. Just be patient and ask pointed, focused questions.

click to view larger image
The Las Vegas Convention Center is bigger than you might think!
Click this image to view a larger version.

Because of its sheer size, the show floor can be intimidating. Plan out the major booths you want to see ahead of time, and make a list. Full, huge foldout maps are available when you arrive, so you can use a hilighter or sharpie to mark out who you’ve seen or booths of interest. Travel as light as possible. You can easily end up lugging around bags and bags full or literature and catalogs each day! I prefer to take a business card, write notes on the back, then followup after the show. Take a CD if available instead of a catalog. You will get an electronic card to swipe your information with vendors, but many of them will not send you literature unless you have them specifically note your contact info on the printout reciept. Always be prepared to do your own followup after the show rather than counting on the company to contact you.

Bring a comfortable shoulder bag with a big, padded strap. Even a light load feels heavy after a full day. Of course, wear comfy shoes – you’ll be walking a lot! Be flexible. Even with four days, it’s impossible to really see everything. Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had are with people I never expected to meet in the lunch line, or vendors I didn’t even know existed.

NAB will positively flood you with information. Try to take as many notes as you can, as attending the show is only half the experience. I find real benefit in visiting websites, stocking up on my bookmarks, and following up with people I’ve met weeks or even months later. You’ll find your horizons broadened, and you’ll start planning for NAB2006 before you stop getting brochures from NAB2005!

Written by Scott Anderson.
Thrown together by Chris Hurd.

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