A Hotel Show Works Out the Kinks

Paul McLane is editor in chief/U.S.

We wondered how the Radio Show would do when it scaled down to a hotel venue. I give the change a cautious thumbs up.

The organizers at NAB and RAB must tend to certain concerns on the exhibitor side before next year’s show (which, by the way, will be held in Chicago); but I am more optimistic for the convention’s future now that I’ve actually seen it in this kind of venue, than I was on first hearing of the idea a year ago.

This feels, simply, like a good fit, more appropriate than a cavernous convention center that made us, well, small. Here, hallway personal interaction is good. The lobby is a power broker’s dream; you can stand just inside the hotel entrance or near the top of any one of several escalators and see most any honcho you care to name stroll by. Sessions are animated. The engineering track panel I moderated drew a standing-room crowd, though granted, meeting rooms are smaller than some at past shows.

I don’t know the overall attendance number; I can tell you the opening session drew some 700 to 800 people by my count.

The “Marketplace,” i.e. the mostly-tabletop exhibit area, needs work. NAB officials will be meeting with several exhibitors Friday to get their feedback, I’m told. What they’ll hear is that exhibitors detest not being able to offer their customers free exhibits-only passes; NAB did away with that traditional benefit this year; but equipment sellers feel the change unnecessarily caps the number of people who come, particularly regional attendees, folks who don’t want or can’t afford to pay full boat.

NAB will also hear that exhibitors didn’t save money as some had hoped in this new show format; Washington and this hotel are expensive. Further, situating the exhibit hall in the far lower reaches of a facility, in a room that felt dark and confining, was an unfortunate choice. And several companies voiced overall disappointment to me about the foot traffic.

But I have heard repeated compliments on the strength of the session content. And as usual at the fall show, though there are technical topics to discuss, engineering issues are secondary to the high-level CEO/group head/moneybags talk and all the sales strategizing. Technology is more front-and-center in the spring.

Topics of discussion on the floor include the economy; developing interest in asymmetrical sidebands for HD Radio; the economy; the timing of an announcement from FEMA about CAP (it came Thursday midday) and what that means for radio stations; the NRSC’s new guideline for determining total HD Radio sideband power level; and the economy.

For more, see our news coverage here on the website and in our post-show coverage. And if you were here at the show, let me know what you thought.

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