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Serendipity and the Spring Show

My GM can’t figure out why I’d go to the NAB Show and burn up half my vacation time

My GM can�t figure out why I�d go to the NAB Show and burn up half my vacation time. She�s sure that this is all about that for which Las Vegas is famous.

Talkin� HD Radio and NextRadio at last year�s show. Gambling? Engineers don�t do this well because they can do the math. She�d maybe help a little with the expense, if I brought back some real value to the station. She wants to know what that is.

That�s not so easy, not because I don�t know, but because we have no common language or experience when it comes to such things. It�s in my job description to interpret things, so I tell her that I�ll visit some vendors, ask why they haven�t fixed whatever, buy some stuff on a discount, learn about ways to save money and make more of it. It�s half-true.

Then the rationalization: It�s Las Vegas, so the cheap rooms are really cheap and flights are a near giveaway.

If you�re a vendor, the sales manager will want a schedule of every customer meeting and expects that every minute has a plan and purpose. Piles of virtual paper will be generated and badges scanned. The smart sales managers know it�s more about giving his team the excuse to call their customers, as the plans rarely come together. Even the dumb ones won�t care when the serendipity kicks in and the lead list grows with unexpected opportunities. Still, every vendor I know will call and ask for help to fill their meeting list.

I�m a big disappointment as a customer because I never use NAB Show time for someone or something I can accomplish from home. I don�t see the point of hanging in a clique with my local SBE buddies and particularly vendors that might buy lunch and spend some serious time with me here at home. Still, we play the game. I�ll send an �I�m sorry I missed our floor meeting � please call on me as soon as you are back� note when I get home. I write these before I leave and save them in �drafts.�

NAB will send out the floor plan and schedule of sessions. OK � the Saturday SBE Ennes program is a must, but it makes my head hurt worse than a hangover. (It�s a good hangover.) There will be a few other sessions to take in. That is the end of the structured time for me.

My floor map isn�t all marked up. I�ll wear the same comfortable shoes that I have worn only this week for more than a decade. They used to be a bit un-dressy for the older NAB costumes, back when almost all badges had call letters on them; now that few badges have call letters, and a logo shirt or simple blazer is cool, the shoes are a bit over dressy.

NAB Show is about serendipity. The less I plan, the better it is. Who knows who you will run into and under what circumstances? It�s not about what you expect, it�s about what you can�t even imagine.

These colloquia present many opportunities for therapy and exercise. I like that people wear badges; it�s a small industry, but between the time of our first NAB Show when we know no one and this next one� well there are a thousand people in this industry for whom I remember everything but their name. I�m face-recognition-challenged and name-impaired for people I only see a few times a decade. The badge gives context. Otherwise, I�ll make the connections about an hour after we part.

It�s a flood of people and images and ideas. My imagination soars. I day-dream half the time I�m there. It will take all year to implement the great ideas I think I�m having. For some reason in one of those sessions, the diagram of the solution for some vexing problem comes to mind, and I scratch it into my notebook before it fades. For the other 51 weeks of the year, we work in a near vacuum, but here, we�ll share hints and tricks and sentiments.

My career trajectory has changed at NAB Shows. It�s the ad hoc dinner. It�s the chance meeting. It�s the committee meeting. It�s the disruptive device or concept. It�s the great idea I didn�t know I could have.

But mostly it�s passion for broadcasting. I don�t know that going to NAB Show makes me a different kind of broadcast engineer, or if I go to NAB Show because I am a different kind of engineer. It really doesn�t matter does it? �

The Wandering Engineer is an industry stalwart who has been in broadcasting since the days of Marconi and Tesla. He gives his thoughts on the current state of broadcast engineering and the broadcast engineer.