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A close call for the 2003 NAB Radio Show

A close call for the 2003 NAB Radio Show

Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Chriss Scherer, editor

Just as we finish one convention season, another one begins. It’s a never-ending cycle. While radio stations play the game with ratings periods, manufacturers and trade publications play the game with conventions.

Now, in the middle of summer, the pendulum is beginning to swing toward the fall NAB convention. What will the NAB Radio Show bring this year?

Everyone attends a convention for a different reason. For attendees, conventions provide an opportunity to meet equipment manufacturers and dealers, renew contacts, evaluate new equipment and services, and participate in sessions and workshops. Exhibitors follow a similar track; their goal is making contact with the attendees. There is a symbiotic relationship. A successful convention needs attendees and exhibitors.

It’s not simply a numbers game, however. The quantity of attendees and exhibitors alone does not make a show successful. The spring convention, while still a large convention, attracts many different sectors of the entertainment technology industries, of which broadcasting is one part. The NAB calls this convergence. Radio attendees and exhibitors call this clutter. The spring convention is so diverse; radio is nearly lost in the rush.

The answer has been to hold a radio-only convention in the fall; one that is a holdover from an earlier incarnation for radio programming, the World Media Expo and other sources, to provide a convention that addresses the needs of radio broadcasting. Or does it?

The fall convention has shown a continuing decline in attendance throughout the years. Some speculate that the NAB wants to end the fall show. Others feel that the NAB’s radio board has perpetuated the fall convention out of spite and to stroke their own egos. Either way, if things continue the way they are, the fall NAB Radio Show will likely end on its own as it runs out of steam.

The fall convention’s demise was nearly sealed when the NAB announced a change in the policy for issuing exhibits-only passes. Instead of providing unlimited passes, the NAB planned to provide each exhibitor with 20 passes total. These passes are one-day passes, with 10 provided for the Thursday show hours and 10 for the Friday show hours. Attendees are only allowed to have one pass each. That means only one day to attend the convention floor. This action would have surely limited the overall attendance on the convention floor.

While attendance is important to the exhibitors, the pass limitation would have also affected attendees. There would have been no last-minute effort to get on the convention floor. The one-day limitation would also likely preclude many from traveling to Philadelphia for a single day.

Fortunately, a group of exhibitors approached the NAB to discuss the matter. Following the NAB and exhibitors’ conversation, the new policy was lifted and restored to its previous practice of granting unlimited pass distribution. There will be no printed passes as in the past, but attendees will be able to register online.

Does radio really need a fall NAB convention? Time will tell. There are many regional conventions run by SBE chapters, state broadcast associations and equipment dealers. ARMA made a run at it for a short time, with a good formula. Unfortunately, ARMA did not receive industry-wide support. Exhibitors have to choose events carefully to maximize their return on investment.

If you feel that radio needs a fall show of its own, then you need to do your part. The exhibitors have made an extra effort to make it easier for you to attend. If you want the convention to continue, do your part and arrange to go. Philadelphia is an easy trip for anyone on the East Coast. If you’re traveling farther, plan to spend the weekend. Philadelphia is packed with history and interesting sights, and it’s not as expensive as some other tourist locations.

It’s up to you to decide if the fall NAB Radio Show will succeed.

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