It’s time to stop wandering in the desert

A curious floor layout has numbered aisles intersecting in the South Upper Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center at NAB2005.

The bewildered look of astonishment on the faces of those trekking up and down the aisles of NAB2005 didn’t result exclusively from the swirl of innovation.

Sure, there were extreme technology makeovers at NAB2005 - everything from IPTV to 2GHz BAS relocation to HDTV to digital workflow. But the quizzical look on the face of so many NAB attendees originated from something far more basic than technology overload. The nonplused stares – especially in the South Upper and Lower Halls towards the east - at this year’s convention came from the illogical, frustrating, mind-numbing way the convention floor was laid out.

It’s a small thing. Certainly with the likelihood of DTV date-certain legislation, an impending rewrite of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and momentum building for new laws imposing severe penalties for broadcast indecency on the horizon, wandering around the Las Vegas Convention Center like a lobotomized rodent in a maze isn’t all that important.

However, attendees paid a lot of money to go to NAB2005, and exhibitors forked over plenty of cash to be there, too. If the wandering masses can’t find what they came for because the layout of the exhibit floor is so unpredictable, then at least it’s an important enough issue to merit considering a fix.

Never one to criticize without offering a suggestion, I have a simple remedy that’s sure to put a smile on the faces of many at NAB2006, including the poor LVCC information booth workers who so often were overcome with wondering, wandering attendees at this year’s convention.

Two words for the NAB: cross streets! The U.S. Postal Service has used them for years, and with the exception of the occasional catalog or letter that errantly lands in the wrong mailbox, it works for hundreds of millions of people with billions of parcels delivered every year stretching back at least as far as Ben Franklin. Think of the opportunities. The NAB could even use the cross streets to honor industry luminaries – perhaps Paley Place, Sarnoff Street or even Fritts Freeway.

Part two of the fix is that no matter what the obstruction – a mega booth, supporting pillars, escalators - consistently number the aisle grid. In other words, don’t jump around just because you think it makes sense. It doesn’t. Such consistency in numbering means there’s never a chance that SU9800- SU9900 will intersect with SU10000 – SU11000.

The result? At next year’s convention someone actually will describe his location from the floor on the cell phone with a sentence like: “I’m on Murrow between 9700 and 9800.” Imagine the bliss.

But a word of caution to the NAB: Don’t sell naming rights for these cross streets the way communities do for arenas and stadiums. That way the association can avoid embarrassing questions about why the Sony booth is on Panasonic Way.

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