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NAB Explores a ‘Tabletop’ Approach for Fall Radio Show

Most vendors shrug, but a few are vocal in disapproval

There was much speculation among vendors on the floor in Philly this week about the shape next year’s fall NAB Radio Show will take, particularly its exhibits. Some surmise was fed by the lack of the usual large signs saying “See you in X city next year.”

Details of the next show are still being worked out. The event will be in Washington, as reported Thursday in The Leslie Report, though a venue and dates haven’t been set — look for it to be combined with the Group Head Fly-In that brings radio execs to D.C. for some personal and lobbying time — and the show will likely be in a hotel setting, with more of a conference feel emphasizing one-on-one interactions among attendees, according to several NAB officials. Though they did not say so, such a show also is likely to be less costly to produce.

Exhibits would be more integrated into that conference setting, and NAB officials were sounding out exhibitors this week about a “tabletop” approach of smaller displays rather than the traditional floor and booth setups.

Many exhibitors told RW this approach would be acceptable because much of the floor already consists of 10 by 10 booths, though they also said they hoped the cost to exhibit would accordingly be less.

But a few larger companies disagreed with the idea vocally. “It would be terrible,” said one, who fears that a shrunken exhibit floor would send the wrong message about the health of the industry. “It would be like giving up.” An exec in another larger booth said they wouldn’t exhibit in that case, though they might instead use a suite to show products.

The fall Radio Show has changed in character over the years (remember the joint World Media Expos?), with smaller attendance than a decade ago, now measured in a couple of thousand total (about 2,500 this year). The event feels small in a big venue like the Pennsylvania Convention Center; and the sense at least on the exhibit floor was that next year’s event would have a different tone more reflective of its actual size.

An NAB official told RW Thursday night that the organization will be talking further with exhibitors after this show before finalizing decisions.