In 2006, the National Association of Broadcasters Convention had over 108,000 attendees in Las Vegas. That dropped to 82,600 by 2009 amid cries that the big trade show is rendered useless in today's internet connected world. All you ever need to know about your business and “what to buy” and “how to do” can be found on the internet without all the hassles and expense of traveling. In 2010 attendance crept back up to 88,044 for one of the most dynamic shows I have ever experienced.
I have to say, I’ve missed the last three shows myself. The first one by choice, the other two due to the work schedule. This year I made a decision that my schedule would be cleared for the event, particularly with the buzz around 3D. The decision was made even easier when we saw the lowest hotel rates in Vegas we’ve ever seen!
But back to the show. A 6,000 person increase is a modest jump when you consider the size and scope of this event and quite honestly, I was of the mindset that with resources like CreativeCow.net there really was NOT much of a need to get out and attend the show.
It’s four (or more) days of a lot of walking, coffee, standing, talking, coffee, more walking, listening, coffee, walking, coffee and coffee. What can I say, there’s Starbucks all over in there and I’m drawn like a moth to flame.
I was reminded this year of just WHY these trade shows truly are still relevant and important to all of us in the production industry.
There really is no other way to see everything you want to see, in person, operating at one time. What makes Avid unique from Adobe? What’s the difference between the new Panasonic and Sony small cameras? What kind of microphone can go underwater and still keep working? Are LED lights really any good or do I still need HMI? Why is the Grass Valley booth bathed in green light? (never got the answer to that one)
You’re spending money on equipment, software and you need answers on what will work for you in your budget. You have questions on how to do certain workflows, there are literally thousands of experts in one location. The internet is sweet and it certainly has empowered many of us to make decisions we could not otherwise have made from glossy brochures and sales pitches. But nothing beats the ability to literally compare two, three, ten similar products in the space of a few hours. Watch demo, use the product, ask questions, get answers and then have the ability to go back and ask more questions.
Nor is there any other place where you can stumble on to products and ideas you’ve never heard of. I’m starting two original television series here and I’m interested in some new Panasonic cameras and Canon Lenses. On the way there, I found a whole series of LED lighting setups. Lower power consumption, bright lights and potential HMI replacements. Prices ranged from $250 to thousands of dollars. What’s the difference in the brands? From what I could tell it was really the ruggedness of the frames, the rigs and the electronics. Some felt flimsy and fragile while one brand they literally slammed the lights on the desk to show they’re almost unbreakable.
We might be producing a new fishing series as well and I found a microphone company that was dunking one their products in water and the mic was functioning perfectly AND it was much less than the mics I had been looking at online. They pointed me to another company that had a reasonably priced waterproof transmitter. I never would have found either if I wasn’t walking the show floor. Yes I could have asked about this on the internet and would have gotten some really good advice from pros in the field. But this was nice to see, hear and touch.
So with this uptick in interest in 3D particularly, it seems to be that the Trade Show might be even more relevant in today’s internet world than ever before. We can make reasonably informed decisions based on the information we get from the internet. We can make completely informed decisions based on a combination of information from the internet AND first hand experience at a Trade Show. If I did not attend the show this year I would not have believed that, but it’s just true. Also, I can’t tell you how many people would tell me, “Did you see such and such? No? You have to go check this out in Booth....” We see this all the time with internet forums where one question leads to advice to look at an alternative. At a show like NAB you can not only look at the alternative but make a reasonable decision very quickly whether it’s a good alternative or not.
If you looked at Twitter, CreativeCow.net and many other sites during the 4 day run of NAB this year, those sites were just completely flooded with requests for more information, please test this out, please look at this, is this really as good as they say it is, etc.... People were begging for information that was on display right there on the show floor. Does it cost money to go to a Trade Show? Yes. Is it money well spent? Again I have to say Yes. With the incredible changes our industry is going through, you simply can't afford NOT to attend these events at least every other year.
If you did not make NAB this year, plan to come out in 2011 as 3D should be in full swing. If you are in Europe, plan to attend IBC and check out what is on the horizon. At the very least, try to attend one of these Road Shows from the various manufacturers, though I do find them somewhat of a waste of time. You only get the one perspective from those, you really can’t compare and contrast what you’re seeing in the road show vs. another manufacturer.