The Texas Association of Broadcasters announced in an email that its exhibits for the TAB Show in Austin in August have sold out, with 100 vendors booking space.
We took it as our prompt to check in with the TAB on its plans for holding a physical trade show on Aug. 3 and 4. It would be one of the first events in the U.S. radio industry to “go back live” since the pandemic began early last year.
Oscar Rodriguez is TAB’s president.
Radio World: It looks like TAB is moving firmly ahead with plans to hold a physical event. I’m sure you have a sense that you will be one of the first. What factors led you to decide to proceed in physical form?
Oscar Rodriguez: Our members. They’ve been hunting down vaccines since they first became available and now there’s an ample supply in Texas, so that was our primary consideration. But ultimately, they’re ready to meet and do business.
They want to explore new gear and revenue building strategies that’ll make them more efficient and profitable … lessons learned during this long-running disaster. They want to reconnect with friends across the state. And they know they’ll get a big bang out of the very few bucks it all costs.
RW: Will there be a virtual component as well?
Rodriguez: We definitely considered a virtual component or hosting a hybrid event. After much discussion, we decided to move forward and dedicate our resources to bringing in some top-notch presenters/panels and encouraging folks to join us — safely — in-person in Austin.
After more than 18 months of virtual events, most folks are burnt out on virtual gatherings.
RW: Describe the precautions show planners are taking, and how the attendee experience will be different.
Rodriguez: Our team has been working diligently with the JW Marriott (our host venue) since last year to make sure all safety precautions are in place. Believe me, this has been no easy task with everything changing so quickly.
The JW currently requires wearing of face masks in all indoor public areas, and we will enforce that or whatever requirements are in place at the time of the event.
[Related: “IBC Show Set to Go Ahead in September”]
We also are asking all registrants to agree to our health and wellness waiver before they are allowed to enter the show. Of course, we are setting the events/meetings and including floor decals to allow for social distancing, providing many hand sanitizer stations, and working with the JW to stay on top of frequently sanitizing common areas, etc.
We’ve also redesigned our big meal events to ensure safety and comfort, while making sure everyone has the sustenance they need for the non-stop schedule we always present.
RW: What will the experience of visiting a booth be like, and are there rules or guidance for those interactions?
Rodriguez: Initially, we’d planned to have 166 booths in the Trade Show. In order to respect social distancing rules, and best use our contracted space, we had to widen aisles and leave more open space, forcing us to reduce the exhibits to 100 8-by-8-foot booths.
Booth sales opened at the beginning of March (our latest start date ever) and sold out May 4, and we already have a waiting list.
In terms of the experience of visiting a booth, to be honest, we don’t know. Every exhibiting company will have their different level of comfort, and we will work with them to make sure we make that happen.
We’ll have our lead retrieval system in place so there won’t need to be any need to exchange business cards. But a lot of our exhibitors have hands-on equipment that they want to demo. And we are leaving it up to the individual exhibiting companies to decide how they want to handle their one-on-one interactions.
We’ve heard from some attendees/exhibitors who just don’t feel comfortable traveling yet, or their companies won’t allow it. We completely understand that and know that we’ll see them back in Austin in 2022.
For the most part, however, we’ve been hearing from both our exhibitors and broadcast attendees that they are ready to travel and reconnect in person with industry clients and friends who they haven’t seen in close to two years. They are excited — and we are too!
We’re expecting exhibitors to send fewer reps to work the show. And where a broadcast station might have sent five or six people in the past, they’ll most likely be sending fewer … though we’ve had some register more team members than ever before, so it may balance out.
Our Convention Committee has been working diligently on crafting a fantastic schedule of sessions and events and I’m confident their hard work will pay off in terms of broadcast attendees.
RW: What will the experience of attending a session be like?
Rodriguez: In the past, we set the meeting rooms to max capacity. Obviously, that’s not an option this time around. We’re setting each room to allow for social distancing and encouraging mask wearing whenever not seated.
RW: What else should we know?
Rodriguez: We’ll be celebrating 100 years of broadcasting in the Lone Star State! The 2021 TAB Show coincides with the centennial anniversary of the first broadcast signal in Texas, by WRR Dallas, on Aug. 4. That celebration, of course, will cover a lot of history. It’ll also be rooted in the present as the agenda focuses on the technology and practices powering modern radio stations, as well as the ATSC 3.0 “Next Generation” TV standard that’s already on-air in Texas.
Information including a list of exhibitors, sponsors, registration fees and schedule are at https://www.tab.org/convention-and-trade-show. Session topics and presenters for the sales, marketing and technical programs are pending.