Here we are, just about a week away from the next NAB Show, 2017 version. The excitement is in the air for yet another excited, fun-filled time in Vegas!
Or, should I say, just a week away from the excitement of being squeezed in shuttle buses, overcharged for convention center food and drinks and sore feet? It sort of depends on your mindset going into the NAB (and maybe what you’re there to do). I’m always greatly sympathetic to the manufacturers’ employees there to stand for hours on end and not get to really see the show (like we attendees get to).
I’m also sympathetic to dealers that are trying to wrangle customers to different booths at different times because I know they’re running around that massive convention center like it’s an Olympic track. Fortunately for most of us, though we certainly may feel like “cattle being herded,” it’s an exciting event and great place to learn A LOT!
I’ve always considered the NAB Show as the best way to get a “crash course” in the current technology and what’s on the horizon. It’s a great time to catch up with old friends and make new friends.
This is my 27th consecutive NAB, and they’ve all been in Vegas since I started attending. There’s been so many changes over the years. Las Vegas is constantly in transition, so new casinos and hotels are up, while some (many) that were in Vegas in 1990 have been blown-up.
The convention itself has changed in many ways. One time, seeing a computer by itself or standalone software was more of a rarity. Solutions to broadcasting were nearly all based on hardware, so there were a lot of physical “products” and a lot of variety to how they appeared. There were things called “tape recorders” that were analog, and even new “digital tape recorders” of both the audio and video variety. Radio used reel-to-reels and things called “cart machines.”
TV solutions were generally “bigger” while usually doing less … and once upon a time a new thing that they were talking about called “High Definition TV.” Rumors were going around about radio maybe going digital and in 5.1. There was no word in 1990 about streaming radio because it was simply impossible to get any quality when you dialed up your provider at 14.4 baud and heard that familiar “answer and screeching” before the sound muted on the modem.
At one point, the Las Vegas Convention Center could no longer hold our NAB show, so they moved part of it and took over the Sands Expo at The Sands, a convention center that when built in 1990 was itself the second largest convention center in the world. To travel between that part of the show and the main convention center required more bus time, taxi time, walking time and other lost time shuttling. Then the two-storey South Hall was added to the LVCC, as it’s known to many show vets, and now we have SU (South Upper) and SL (South Lower).
Radio equipment manufacturers have often been clustered in the North Hall but someone decided to “mix it all up” a few years ago. Then someone decided that was a bad idea and started to move things around. Then they decided “it would be great to put radio in the North Hall!”
Well, we’ve come back full circle. Glad to have radio back in the North Hall!
We’ve seen the addition of the monorail, which helped with getting to/from the convention center , though probably not as much as everyone thought or hoped it might help.
The old “Elvis hotel” lost its Hilton name and became what it is today. A few years ago it lost The Star Trek Experience. And the old Radio Television News Directors Association, which had their shindig at the same time as NAB seems to have disappeared from the building between the North Hall and the “Elvis hotel.”
Many dignitaries and celebrities have come and gone. Many friends have passed away or moved on to other career fields. A lot of old engineers decided to “get out of the rat race” ... while a lot of people saw new opportunities in radio and TV. But the National Association of Broadcasters convention remains. It’s a great time to learn and grow, and a great time to catch up with old friends and make new friends!
So whether a new person to the NAB convention or an “old timer,” here’s a look at some new things around Las Vegas and some things worth knowing about the convention and Las Vegas.
First ... What’s New
If you’ve been to Vegas before, you know it’s a city constantly changing. Last year I caught the Cirque du Soleil “Beatles Love” show at the Mirage. Phenomenal! It was the first time I’ve seen that show and as you probably know, shows aren’t necessarily cheap, so I wasn't planning to go again at least for a few years. But I just found out that the show has totally been updated to include remixing of the music including other Beatles tunes, lighting changed, and even the story updated (as I heard, to be a little less “dark,” though I really didn’t think it was noticeably dark). They’ve even replaced the audio system and speakers in the seats (Yes! Every seat has speakers!). So knowing that Vegas is constantly changing, it pays to do a little research on the new things. Here’s one link with “the Cliff’s Notes.”
Packing Your Suitcase
This is funny, but I’ve never seen “a good way to pack your suitcase”... and thought this looked like a good way.
And yet another person using the same method (with the Benny Hill “Yackety Sax” background music) ...
Here are some travel tips that you might find useful. Some apply more to women, but there are a few here that are good to remember for everyone.
Things I’ve Learned
This is my 26th consecutive NAB visit (all in Las Vegas of course). If you’ve been to the show (and Vegas) more than a couple of times, you may have already learned these the hard way (as I did).
Wear Comfortable Shoes!
You will walk … and walk ... and walk some more. Be aware — everything looks a LOT closer to you than it really is. Especially if you are on The Strip and see a hotel or casino that looks “just down the road” ... It isn’t!
A couple of years I stayed downtown and thought “That’s an easy walk” to the convention center. It wasn’t!
Be Prepared for Peddlers and “Hawkers”
The good Las Vegas weather allows for a lot of people to solicit for money or push “cards” (I say cards because anyone who has been on The Strip know what these are ... but for the most part, you probably do not want these cards!) I just say, “No thanks” and walk by. As for the peddlers or panhandlers, what I can tell you is what a friend told me who works feeding the poor and hungry. If you truly want to help, donate to organizations that help these people. Handing them money often supports “needs” other than food or housing.
Big City Safety
Be aware of your surroundings. There are lots of international travelers who are confused, lots of panhandlers, some “unstable” people and even some unscrupulous people in Las Vegas. Be aware of people around you, especially away from the convention center or on The Strip. Keep bags or purses with strap from one shoulder to your opposite side (making it harder to grab and run). Keep bags zipped up and close by.
Turn your wallet sideways in your back pocket or keep it in your front pocket. There are pickpockets in any big city and Vegas is no different. Keep track of credit cards and watch them around taxi drivers and people who might take them from your sight while scanning them. About eight years ago a driver used an old mechanical machine claiming his electronic wouldn’t work and within hours my credit card was used in Louisiana while I was still in Vegas!
Keep your senses and never let yourself partake of the partying aspect to the point where you no longer are in control (you’ll see plenty of people doing that). Don’t get me wrong that it’s dangerous and unsafe, but it is a big city with a lot of tourists and you just need to be aware.
Sign Up for “Players Clubs” and Rewards Programs
If you drop money in “one-armed bandits,” don’t do it unless you sign up for the casino rewards programs. I know many people are smart enough NOT to do this (I’m not one of them), but at least know you may potentially get some benefit from your losses. I usually get a free meal or a discounted/free room on my next visit.
Sign Up for Giveaways on the NAB Show Floor
Like you, I “never win anything” ... until one year I returned from the show to receive a call from a broadcast equipment manufacturer saying I won a Segway ($4,300 prize!) I thought it was a joke until I received it at my doorstep. Cool? No. Incredibly awesome! So, yes, take advantage of the free opportunities.
Don’t Sit at a Bar and Let a Chatty Person of the Opposite Sex Sit Next to You and Become Your “Friend”
One year a nice enough lady spent 20 minutes next to me talking up a storm at Quark’s Bar at the old Star Trek Experience in the former Las Vegas Hilton (Yes, I’m a nerd). Had a nice enough time talking to her (this was before there was a Mrs. Off The Beaten Path, of course). When I went to leave, I found out the bartender had dropped her tab onto mine (Yes, scammed!). Chalk this up to “live & learn.”
Spiffs & Floor Freebies
Companies used to give away a lot more of these things 20 years ago, but look around for these things and grab some for home, work, your significant other, or kids. My wife and daughters always have fun going through the “bags of goodies” on my return. (And thanks to the companies that still “find it in their hearts” to give away little trinkets.)
Prior to the show, many people (myself included) make appointments and plan to visit particular manufacturers on the “floor” of the massive Las Vegas Convention Center. It’s actually several “floors.” Look carefully at where they’re located. Schedule appointments or visit manufacturers who are close on the floor. There’s nothing worse than doing this haphazardly where you have a 9 a.m. appointment in the North Hall, then a 10 a.m. in South Lower, then back to the North Hall at 11. You get the point. (*See above “Wear Comfortable Shoes”)
Make Friends and Get to Know Manufacturers
I almost hate to have to say this, but this is the best opportunity to forge great relationships with the people on the floor selling the gear that you use or want to use. I can’t begin to count the number of friends I’ve made over the years. They’ll be lifesavers when you need help with gear or have questions, and some of the friendships will last many, many years (even as some manufacturer’s reps move to selling gear with other companies). Oh, and have sympathy for them since they’re on their feet the whole time and stuck in one place. For me (and those of us attending and not showing), the convention is a little less work and probably a lot more fun than it is for the good people working the booths.
Dress for the Day
Vegas nights can get cool. Just watch the weather forecast and be sure to keep in mind that you might be still out after dark and walking around. It gets cool in the desert at night. And I wouldn’t worry too much about rain. In my 25 years, I think it’s only rained a little maybe on two days. And only one year was it actually cool (and windy!) most of the week. Otherwise the weather is great! Again ... just do a little preplanning and check the weather before you start your day.
Oh ... and between the constant air conditioning in the hotels and convention center, and the fact that you are in the desert, plan for dry skin and dry lips. Bring Chapstick and some sort of hand lotion. Many hotels provide a travel-size bottle of hand lotion as part of their bathroom offerings. Grab it and put it into your pocket when you leave the room in the morning.
If you were a Boy Scout or in the military, this may be second nature … If you do a lot of walking (after the show), there seems to be a lot of bees ... so those with sting allergies shouldn’t forget their EpiPens, etc. And pack all the necessities like antacids, pain relievers, Band-Aids, etc. They can get expensive buying them at the convention center, in hotel gift shops or off of carts.
If You Aren’t Prepared
Know that any sundry you buy in the casinos or hotels will be much more expensive than a store (or what you packed in your luggage). There are drug stores on The Strip where you’ll find the things you’ve forgotten at a much better price than in hotels and casinos.
So these things are just a few of the most basic tips I can provide to those new to the NAB Show or Las Vegas. Have fun and enjoy a great show and wonderful learning opportunity!
And finally ...
This is not an endorsement of this or any company, but with most shows, if you get “last minute tickets” (and not from people standing on the street but at the box office or legit sellers), you can get substantial discounts for shows (as it’s better to sell a cheap seat than leave the seat empty). I work with a fellow who worked for Cirque du Soleil and has friends who work on “The Beatles Love” show (hence the above “inside info” on the newly retooled show). He’s the one who mentioned this particular ticket dealer as a good way to get discounted tickets (and I’ve ignored these ticket brokers for years ... go figure!) He did say that it’s a little bit of a hassle as you still need to go to the box office even after you get the tickets through the broker, but he said “for the good 40% discount, it’s worth the extra little effort.” But like anything I find, I’d invite you to do your own research and check into these. I’m going to try these Tix4Tonight people this year for “The Beatles Love” tickets. I’ll let you know how it goes if you’re curious.
If you stumble across a good or unusual web site that might be of interest, please don’t hesitate to send me the link and any info you might have about it. Also, with the upcoming “heading to Las Vegas for NAB” edition, if you have any tips or stories to share, please send them my way. My email address is email@example.com.