Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

April 2019

NAB Show 2019: A View from the Tradeshow Floor

Having never attended the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas, I did not have a full grasp of the scope and size of the show. And once I was walking the floor earlier this week, it still took a few hours to fully comprehend how freaking big it is. There are nearly 2 million square feet of exhibiting space in 13 halls separable by movable walls.

Over 90,000 attendees showed up along with over 1600 exhibitors to see the latest in video and audio tech in all its glory: broadcast and cable TV, sports, podcasting, radio, lighting, cloud services and much more. It was all there. And it was overwhelming.

The biggest takeaways? As an old radio guy who started his career by playing single 45s on a turntable, I can safely say: we’ve come a long way (mentioning those 45s to the 20 and 30-something folks staffing the booths also was a good way to bring forth those puzzled looks along with a hesitant chuckle – yeah, I know I’m old).

Video is huge, as are the gigantic video walls, which seemed to adorn nearly one out of three booths. Quality is impressive. Cameras are going up in quality as the price creeps down. Seeing and playing with 8K cameras showed attendees what the working video world will be working with soon if they aren’t already.

Audio production, and in particular, the production of audio in conjunction with video, is a really big deal. Avid’s booth featured a large screen displaying how they mixed the music that was a part of the Oscar-winning Bohemian Rhapsody. Also there were the Oscar winners, who sat on a panel discussing the process.

Visitors also could partake in training on a large scale: Adobe, Avid, DaVinci Resolve and many others were doing full-on all-show-hours in-depth training on their latest products.

From an exhibit standpoint, I also saw something I’d never seen before: many video camera and monitor manufacturers built set and had them populated with stand-in actors. The idea was to give visitors a chance to put their hands on the various cameras and zoom and pan and see how everything worked under conditions that replicated what they’d find on an actual set.

I also saw at least three stationary cars equipped with cameras to film actors as they drove. One exhibitor went even further: behind the car there was a large video image of a road as if the car was moving. On the right and left were more screens with similar images. And for the coup de grace, a large video panel suspended over the entire car which simulated the movement of the sky, reflections of streetlights and more. An actor need only sit in the car and everything else is captured in one take, with little post-shoot work needed.

How to film a scene in a car to make it appear it’s really moving.

Lots of international exhibitors, including Europe and China, Korea and Canada among the more prominent. It seems pretty common that exhibits from China and Korea will set up exhibits with walls that enclose much of the space. I don’t see that as much from US exhibitors, so my hunch is it’s a bit of a cultural thing. I also don’t think humor passes easily from culture to culture. One exhibitor from China had a McLaren automobile on display (wasn’t really sure of the purpose, but it certainly looked sharp). As I was talking to one of the reps, I joked that maybe they should raffle off the car at the end of the show. All I got in return was confused look. Hey, I thought it was funny!

Exhibits were impressive from the big companies, and many of the smaller companies also had a good look. Although as in any show, you always see the smaller companies in the 10x10s around the edges of the main floor struggling to be seen or to even have something worth seeing. The most impressive things seen in the smaller booths were the company’s product lit up with LED, or something moving that catches the eye.

Esports had its own section, showing off gamers and gaming. We know that gaming has become a multi-billion dollar industry and if you search for esports competition, you’ll find a lot. There were panels and competitions taking place in the section, but frankly, since I’m not a gamer, it didn’t hold my interest that long. However, my 18-year old son probably could have spent all of the show in this area and it wouldn’t have been enough!

They’ve got their eyes on you!

The tech that supports radio, tv, cable and Internet was also displayed throughout the halls. Not being a tech guy, much of this was over my head, but impressive nonetheless: network, audio, video controllers; studio design and audio and video production boards, facility infrastructure, transmitters, processors, automation software, captioning AI, streaming, scheduling, logging, transcription…you name it, somebody was here promoting it.

I talked to well over a hundred people about the show, how it worked for them, how it helped create leads, sell their products. Most told me it was a great show for them. Several said this show in particular was the one show that gave them most of their good leads for the year for them to follow up on.

But not everyone agreed. One woman I spoke with said she’d been coming to the show for thirty years, and it’s not the show it used to be. One comment she made totally threw me. She said the “little Sony” booth wasn’t impressive at all. My jaw dropped because I’d been at the Sony booth (probably around 10,000 square feet) earlier in the show and determined it to be one of the top exhibits there, going so far as to walk through the booth for a minute or two shooting video to capture it all. But no, she said, “Sony used to take up a third of the hall!” She said that the networks (CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS) don’t send the people they used to, and the few they do send spend all their time behind closed doors in meetings, and don’t get out and mingle on the show floor like they used to. So her market wasn’t there to the extent they used to be. I found her perspective fascinating: no matter how much evidence you see to support one view, there’s always another view that’s just as valid.

I caught a couple of events on the main stage: opening day, NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith (and former Oregon senator) gave a keynote and ended by awarding MASH actor Alan Alda the NAB Distinguished Service Award. Alan sat for about 15 minutes after the award to chat about his career. I also caught the next morning’s panel, Tales from the White House Beat, featuring Smith chatting with ABC’s Cecilia Vega, NBC’s Hallie Jackson, CBS’s Steven Portnoy and PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor as they shared stories and insight into covering the Trump administration.

Cecilia Vega, Steven Portnoy, Hallie Jackson and Yamiche Alcindor with Gordon Smith

I was invited as a blogger which made me a member of the media, so I felt a bit of kinship with these professional journalists. I’ve been in radio news teams, hosted talk shows and been behind the microphone for decades, and it was great to hear the stories they told.

Lastly, a shout out to these folks: Josh at Time Lapse Cameras, Kent at Sharp Electronics and Suzy at FeiyuTech for their time and information. They reached out and invited me to check out their latest. Time Lapse Cameras has, as you might imagine, some great little affordable time lapse cameras which can be used to record any number of things from construction to exhibit setup and dismantle. Sharp showed off their new 8K cameras which are out later this year, and FeiyuTech demonstrated a new action camera, the Ricco, along with a handful of three-axis gimbals and other assorted goods for the video camera market. All good stuff and thanks for having me!

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, April 8, 2019: Tom Beard

What does it take to be sustainable in regards to your tradeshow marketing program? Regarding your tradeshow exhibit booth? In today’s episode of the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I chat with Tom Beard, National Sales Manager of Eco-Systems Sustainable Displays:

Check out the original interview with BJ Enright of Tradeshow Logic on NAB Show Cares here.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: the new Kamasi Washington album “Heaven and Earth.” Here’s his website.

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Lessons from Good and Bad Bosses

I’ve had a lot of bosses over the years and have learned things from them. Sometimes because they were good bosses, sometimes because they were bad. But bosses are good people to learn lessons from, one way or the other.

The first boss I had was in a little radio station in a small town in Oregon. He was a diehard Baptist and I think that colored his approach to things (not to say Baptists are bad, just using his religion to show where it came from in him). He thought every other song on the air we played on the top 40 station was about picking up girls and having sex with them. Okay, I thought that was a little weird, but when he said it time after time, I realized he was a little obsessed.

The Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life?” Yup, about picking up girls and having sex with them.

Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown?” Same thing, only a lot funkier.

Sammy Johns’ “Chevy Van?” Well, definitely. In fact, if you listen to the lyrics, that’s exactly what it was about.

So maybe he had a point.

He was also rather high-strung besides being focused on songs being about guys picking up girls. There was the time he rushed into the station all aflutter and demanded that I stop the record so he could go on the air and deliver an urgent news report. I waited until the record was over, turned on his microphone in the newsroom and put him on the air. His urgent report? He’d seen an accident where someone ran a stop sign and hit another car going through the intersection. Which was basically a side street in a residential area. So it wasn’t really affecting anyone except the people in the cars, and it was a minor crash anyway.

My takeaway and the lesson I learned? If you’re a boss, being high-strung is not a good way to operate. Unless you like to inject fear into your employees. To me, that’s never been much of a motivator.

A number of radio Program Directors I either worked for, or heard about from fellow DJs, approached dealing with their subordinates by yelling at them. Putting the fear into them. “STOP DOING IT THAT WAY! DO IT THIS WAY!” And so on. Again, not a good motivator. It made you fear the next time you were on the air, knowing he’d be listening and ready to nitpick you to death.

Back in my Radio Daze

Another boss I had years later in radio – the best boss I ever had in radio – taught me a lot about how to communicate with employees. His name was Carl, and as Program Director, he was my direct boss. When it came time for an “aircheck” session in which we’d listen to telescoped recordings of my on-air presentation, he approached it completely differently than anyone I’d worked for before. We’d listen for a few moments as he made notes, at which point he said something like “That was good, this was good, and I’d like you to work on this, this and this.” This critique was delivered pleasantly and with encouragement. And you frankly couldn’t wait until you got behind the microphone again. No pressure, just build you up while you work on things that he requested.

Another boss I worked for in radio was the station owner in a mid-size town. He respected all employees as professionals, so there was very little he said about our on-air work. But I do remember a few things he said.

“When you have good news, bring it to me immediately. I like to celebrate good news. When you have bad news, get it to me even quicker. I want to be able to know it, understand it and deal with it as quickly as possible.” Makes sense to me.

In dealing with clients or partners, he’d always try to get the last dollar from them in any negotiation. He told me he wanted “to see how much money was left on the table.” Another good lesson.

Finally, the last “real” boss I had was Ed at Interpretive Exhibits, the first and only boss I had outside of radio. Since Ed, the only bosses I have are clients. And generally, they’re all great to work for and with.

Ed did a number of things that were important. He showed me the spreadsheets on how he estimated monthly, quarterly and yearly earnings, a format I still use today (he retired and closed the business in 2011 which led me to start TradeshowGuy Exhibits). He also spent a lot of time explaining how things worked in the industry. In particular he walked me through, dozens of times, how he created estimates for big exhibit jobs. He’d break it down step by step, figure out the reasonable time it took to do something, and added about 50%. Why? Because in his experience, he saw that the original estimate was almost always low. Which meant that even experience shop managers didn’t accurately calculate the amount of time it takes to do something. Even down to how many steps and how much time it took to offload something from a truck using a forklift. Armed with that info, I’d occasionally clock the time and the steps it took, and he was right: the shop guys almost always underestimated how much time it took.

And time is money, so if you’re estimating time (labor), you’d better be right, or as close to right as possible.

You can learn lots from bosses: what to do, and what not to do. Some are good role models, others not so much. Take away what you can from each one.

And by the way, if you’re wondering who the world’s worst boss is, you should read this.

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What Does Your Exhibit Remind Visitors of?

Is that a weird question: what does your exhibit remind visitors of?

But think about it. We all have triggers. There are things that we see in the present that reminds us of the past. Maybe it’s a song that takes you back to your childhood. Maybe it’s a smell that reminds of your first love. Could be anything.

Images, colors, stories: they all are shorthand and they can remind us of something. Things that make us happy, sad, safe, tense.

Back to your company’s tradeshow exhibit: what does it remind visitors of?

One good example comes from a client of ours, Bob’s Red Mill. Its iconic red mill structure is a stylized representation of what a lot of people see as harkening back to a different era. Mills represent the hand-crafted way of milling grains – the loving labor that goes into producing a high-quality product. We don’t actually see the millstone or how the grains are ground under the weight of the stone, but the mill reminds us of that.

On the tradeshow floor, stories are told in shorthand by using various materials, colors, shapes, fonts and more.

Green tells you: earth-friendly, plant-based, life, renewal, energy, harmony with nature.

Red is the color of fire, blood, energy, way, strength, power, passion, determination.

Orange combines the energy of red and yellow and communicates energy and happiness, enthusiasm, fascination, creativity, determination.

When it comes to shapes, meaning can be communicated in a lot of ways. Geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles, triangles, crosses.

Organic shapes are more free-flowing: circles, leaves, rocks, clouds, ink blots.

Fonts tell a story, probably one of the most important. Every font has a unique personality and purpose. Bold block fonts tell one story, while flowing script fonts tell another. Thin fonts tell a story that’s different than fat ones. There’s a psychology behind using various fonts that are more than I want to delve into here, but the topic is worth taking a deeper look.

Some brands have clearly designated, iconic images (the red mill of Bob’s, the iconic “T” of Tesla, the siren of Starbucks, the apple of both Apple Computers and Apple Records to name a few). These can easily be put on a tradeshow exhibit design.

Other brands are less-known or not as well-defined, and in those cases it often means working with a 3D exhibit designer with the skill to use the shapes, colors and fonts needed to clearly communicate the brand’s story in a glance with an exhibit.

If you don’t have an iconic, easily recognizable brand (yet), we go back to the question: what does your tradeshow exhibit remind visitors of?

Do the colors evoke good memories and associations? Do the shapes clearly communicate a message that brings up a positive connection?

It’s all worth considering as you market your business by using tradeshows. After all, a tradeshow is the perfect place to present a clearly-defined image to your visitors.


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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, April 1, 2019: NAB Show Preview

The National Association of Broadcasters Show is in Las Vegas from April 6 to April 11, 2019. I’ll be attending it for the first time ever. Crazy, right, since I spent three decades as a radio broadcaster. But it’ll be fun, I’m sure! This week’s podcast/vlog previews the show just a bit:

Check it out: NAB SHOW Website.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING is the debut novel from Maurice Carlos Ruffin, We Cast a Shadow.

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