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Exhibitors Not Happy With Traffic, Space

Show organizers say things will change

One in a series of post-convention stories wrapping up the recent Radio Show in Washington.

The exhibits were on tables in a room at the lowest level of the Grand Hyatt. Photo by Jim Peck Radio Show convention exhibitors expressed various complaints about the venue for the displays, most of which were in a room on the bottom floor of three hotel levels used for the convention.

Organizers met with vendors even before the show was over to get feedback; NAB and RAB said they heard the concerns and that the exhibit situation will be different when the show goes to Chicago next Sept. 14–16.

The exhibit space this year had dim lighting and tabletops were small. Companies didn’t like that the tables were arranged closely, making it difficult for vendors to use signs without blocking sightlines or the view of another exhibit.

The aisles between booths were narrow, making it hard to talk with potential or current customers without blocking traffic.

One disgruntled exhibitor said the tabletop arrangement “made it almost impossible” to show his product. He said he has exhibited at regional broadcast shows with tabletops arranged in rows, which was better for companies and attendees. Presumably this couldn’t be done in “The Marketplace” exhibit space, with its 70 or so companies.

Another complaint was that the electrical setup to each booth consisted of power strips and extension cords daisy-chained over several booths. One vendor complained he had to use his own company packing tape to secure a cord, after the hotel staff wouldn’t.

However, Tim Bealor of Broadcast Electronics said whenever there was a problem, show organizers were “very responsive.”

Two vendors who attended the debriefing meeting said show organizers listened to their concerns and indicated there would be changes. Vendors who attended represented nearly every type of product category found on the show floor.

The meeting “was held to get feedback, because this was such a radical departure from what had been done before,” Bealor said.

Another big point of contention was the lack of an exhibits-only pass that companies could offer to customers, or some similar mechanism to encourage floor traffic. This, several sources said, discouraged many local and regional engineers from attending.

The organizers, according to one vendor, acknowledged this issue: “They know they need to fix that and to provide better access for people who just want to come and talk to equipment suppliers.”

Lack of booth traffic was a common complaint; show organizers held food-related events on the floor to try to drive traffic to the booths; but there just weren’t a lot of engineers in attendance.

The organizers received feedback that suggests exhibitors may be best served with an exhibit floor that provides more flexibility, including traditional exhibit space, meeting space and tabletops, an NAB spokesman told Radio World.

One vendor used his own packing tape to secure an electrical cord for his booth. Photo by Leslie Stimson Another vendor who attended the meeting said organizers confirmed their commitment to maintaining a Radio Show in the future.

Indeed, an NAB spokesman said: “We remain absolutely committed to putting on a Radio Show that best serves the interests of the entire radio community. As we prepare for the 2011 Radio Show in Chicago, we’ll continue to seek open and honest feedback from exhibiting representatives so that we may make the appropriate adjustments to ensure they have a successful show.”

An exhibitor survey form went out shortly after the show, offering exhibitors a chance to weigh in. Another e-mail survey asked attendees for show reaction, and among its questions was one about the best format for the exhibit floor, i.e. tables, booths or some combo approach.

Among positives at the show, one attorney said the hotel’s central locations offered a natural way for attendees to see each other and catch up or to meet for the first time. Top-level industry people attended or participated on panels.

RAB and NAB said they were happy with turnout at sessions. An RAB spokeswoman they haven’t released “specific data because of partner agreements and the nature of combining two major events for the first time,” but she termed the Radio Show a “tremendous success,” pointing to the more than 1,800 people who registered and saying the headquarters hotel and another hotel were sold out more than six weeks before the event.

“More important than attendance, the overall mood of the attendees at the RAB/NAB Radio Show was arguably the most upbeat we’ve seen in years. The partnership has exceeded expectations on all levels,” she said.