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Fall Radio Show Gets an Overhaul

Convention takes on a different form as it comes to Capitol Hill’s front door

Washington’s Grand Hyatt will host the fall show.
WASHINGTON — The annual national fall radio convention, co-produced this year by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio Advertising Bureau, will look a bit different when it opens on Sept. 29 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington.

Gone is the traditional technology exhibit area, replaced with vendor tables located near session areas. Attendees can expect additional sessions on sales and marketing. And the name of the convention now is simply “The Radio Show.”

Planners of this year’s event hope to see more attendees in the aisles after years of declines. The annual convention, which drew just over 2,500 a year ago in Philadelphia, has seen attendance dip nearly 20 percent since 2006, and turnout is well below numbers from a decade ago.

The decline in attendance had led some in the industry to speculate once again about the future of the fall show, a conversation that has been going on for years in one form or another.

Some observers wondered to Radio World how long NAB would be able to fund a costly radio-only convention. However, NAB show planners say the trade organization has never lost money on past NAB Radio Shows. NAB does not release profit/loss totals from its conventions.

Combined event

The combined involvement of NAB and RAB will further guarantee the future of the convention, said Dennis Wharton, NAB executive vice president of media relations.

The RAB’s annual Sales, Marketing and Management Conference saw attendance figures hold steady around 1,200 the past three years, according to a spokeswoman. Elements from that conference will be incorporated into the Radio Show, according to RAB. Its most recent sales management conference was in March 2009 in Orlando.

For its part, RAB believes combining its sales conference with the NAB Radio Show is the culmination of a cooperative effort between the organizations that began in 2007.

“This is really what we set out to do. This was the eventual reality we knew was coming. A combined show in a smaller venue that integrates our RAB sessions with what NAB has always done so well,” said RAB President/CEO Jeff Haley.

RAB presented several revenue-focused sales and marketing sessions at the NAB Show in Las Vegas in April, Haley said, and has done so for several years.

For some equipment manufacturers and other vendors who help underwrite the fall convention with their exhibitor fees, the Radio Show has long been viewed as an important networking tool, though a common conversation among exhibitors in the aisle of past shows is whether a separate fall convention is in fact necessary given the scope of the spring show.

“Our goal is for a more integrated show experience for attendees,” Wharton said. “We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from vendors who are excited about the integration of exhibits with the educational sessions. We are confident this approach will enhance the Radio Show experience for vendors and attendees.”

Whether the new tabletop display areas will satisfy vendors is unknown. Wharton said as of early June, 60 vendors had committed to take space this fall, with additional booths being sold on an ongoing basis. “We remain optimistic that we will match the 71 exhibiting companies we had at the 2009 Radio Show.”

According to the Radio Show website,, the prices for a tabletop exhibit in June was $3,500 for an NAB/RAB member exhibitor, $4,000 for non-member. Prices were scheduled to increase $500 as of July 1. Wharton would not disclose how much vendor space cost last year on the exhibit floor at the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia.

Gone this year are the free exhibit-only passes that vendors could share with their customers, he said. “Because our exhibitors will be fully integrated with Radio Show session rooms, there will no longer be an exhibit-only registration.”

Several radio equipment manufacturers contacted for this story said they are glad to see NAB trying something different with the Radio Show and are confident the new format will benefit all involved.

Equipment consolidation

“Over the years the market has changed along with how the market works. The fact that [NAB] is trying a new format bodes well for the long-term survival of the show,” said Rich Redmond, director of strategic marketing and business development for Harris Broadcast Communications.

Harris plans to have a similar presence at this year’s show as it had in 2009.

“We haven’t finalized our layout yet. We envision doing something more than just a table,” Redmond said.

NAB’s Wharton said some vendors likely will pay for additional meeting space in suites adjacent to session venues. Exhibitor meeting rooms are available at the Grand Hyatt for $15,000, according to the show’s website.

The Radio Show’s exhibition area has already been dramatically reduced over the years, Redmond said, partly because technology has consolidated.

“The days of (Harris) bringing in a whole studio with furniture and equipment have gone away. We simply do not need as much space (for exhibits),” he said. “Technology allows for more capability in a smaller space.”

Broadcast antenna manufacturer Electronics Research Inc., would prefer a traditional display area but considers the Radio Show worthwhile regardless, said ERI President Tom Silliman.

“There are so many opportunities to meet potential clients away from the floor area anyway, whether it’s at sessions, the luncheon” or the National Radio Systems Committee meeting, said Silliman. “I’m not too upset by the reduction in display floor space.”


Marty Sacks, spokesman for Axia Audio, said the fall Radio Show has always focused more on programming and sales than engineering and equipment, and he expects the format change will result in more of the same.

Axia Audio has shared booth space with Broadcaster’s General Store the last several years and will do so again, Sacks said, in addition to other marketing.

Technical Sessions at the Radio Show
This year’s Radio Show in Washington will feature some sessions specifically for radio engineers. The NAB Science and Technology Department has developed a series of sessions called “Ask the Experts,” which the association says will focus on high-level technical advancements and put attendees face-to-face with equipment manufacturers.

Ask the Experts will create “the perfect environment to interact with major broadcast suppliers” and put attendees “directly in front of those who are changing the rules, crafting new ones and enforcing compliance,” according to the NAB Radio TechCheck newsletter.

Sessions include “Building a Radio Station,” which will address streamlined radio facilities, and “AM/FM/Digital Transmitter Manufacturers,” which will focus on new technology, digital radio power levels, remote control, safety issues and preventive maintenance.

Audio processing, HD Radio and AM antenna modeling will also be discussed during specific sessions. Visit to learn more. Radio World will publish a convention preview special in early September.

— Randy J. Stine “Most of the attendees are more focused on content than on delivery methods. For this reason we participate in a manner more appropriate for the audience. We send some of our people to give papers and often display a bit of equipment in one of our resellers’ booths for those who might be interested in equipment.”

The largest contingent of attendees at the Radio Show is “management-level radio executives, including CEOs, corporate and station-level managers,” NAB’s Wharton said.

“We didn’t break it down from 2009, but we did get a large number of radio professionals from engineering, programming and sales,” he said.

Some vendors said they are bypassing this fall’s Radio Show for a variety of reasons.

“The Radio Show has not proven to be very helpful in recent years, and because of that we have no plans to exhibit at this time,” said Tom King, president of AM broadcast antenna manufacturer Kintronic Labs. “It has not facilitated our networking with new customers.”

One manufacturer in the emergency alerting sector plans to be at the show but questions whether the tabletop display format will be good for vendors.

“We’ve been told most of the displays will be four tables back-to-back in a square, with no popup displays and only signage. There won’t be much room for equipment. If customers can’t peek and poke at the equipment, we might as well to stay home and work the phones,” this source said.

Another show vendor said only half-jokingly that with the exhibit format change, “NAB will effectively kill off what is left” of the annual Radio Show.


NAB has experimented over the years with various forms of a radio-centric show.

The first radio-focused NAB gathering, dubbed the NAB Radio Programming Conference, took place in Chicago in 1978. Six years later, the NAB Radio Programming Conference joined with the National Radio Broadcasters Association’s annual convention, according to previous Radio World reporting.

By 1995 the annual conference was called the World Media Expo and was sponsored by four organizations — NAB, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, the Radio-Television News Directors Association and the Society of Broadcast Engineers. NAB and the former Radio & Records magazine co-located their radio conventions in 2006.

Attendance at the NAB Radio Show has declined over the past decade. Recent totals are from NAB. Earlier data are according to Radio World stories at the time, using NAB estimates. (RAB said attendance at its annual Sales, Marketing and Management Conference held steady at around 1,200 from 2007 to 2009.) Despite a significant decline in attendance over a decade (see graph), Wharton said doing away with the annual Radio Show has never been discussed within NAB.

“We have never debated that behind the scenes. There had been talk of making it a part of the spring show in Las Vegas, but radio still needs and deserves a standalone show,” Wharton said. “We just want to make it more of an effective show. Co-sponsoring with the RAB should put the show on very stable footing for the future.”

This year’s enhanced Radio Show will include financial and general management topics as well as a specific radio engineering session track called Ask the Experts. The show also will address many of the regulatory issues facing the radio industry, with Washington serving as an appropriate backdrop, Wharton said.

“Like it or not, policymakers have a huge impact on our business. Pending legislation on the performance tax and the FCC re-opening media ownership proceedings will get a lot of attention. Washington was chosen for this year’s Radio Show because it is the center of so many things that affect the radio industry.”