Four days in the desert

It's April, and it's show time again! During four days of mayhem, we all try to catch what's new in the world of broadcasting and, in the words of NAB, broadercasting. This latter word reflects the diverse range covered outside mainstream television and radio. Broadcasters must adopt other media, especially the Web. In addition, other sectors — from government to worship — are adopting television as a key part of their communications strategy.

Trade shows always stimulate conversations along similar lines: Why do we go? What do we get out of it? Did we see everything we wanted? Did we plan our days to make the most efficient use of our valuable time? NAB is not a place to turn up on spec; everyone needs a detailed plan of what to see and whom to meet. Once you step out of McCarran Airport, it's a maelstrom.

It's not just attendees who are asking the above questions. This year at NAB, two major players in the post-production arena will not be present on the show floor, and that has created much speculation and gossip. Attending as an exhibitor is expensive. It's not just the upfront costs, but the disruption to the business with so many staff out of the office. Normal business goes on hold for a week during the show.

This raises the question as to whether shows are the most cost-effective way to generate sales leads. Of course there is no absolute answer to that. A show is part of the marketing mix, and no one can deny it creates a buzz. What better place is there to launch a product than NAB, and which R&D department doesn't base product development on April every year?

I know why I am going to NAB, but for the broadcaster, the choice can be tough. Do you look at the new products, or do you attend the sessions? As usual, there is a packed program of sessions, from newsgathering to technologies for worship.

There is no doubt that one important aspect of the show is the opportunity to network with your peers. It may be old friends who work for the competition or workmates in a distant office. NAB has the advantage of attracting international visitors, whereas other shows are smaller, such as IBC, or national. NAB is definitely the place to meet. For the multinational vendor, there is no better venue to meet the dealers and their key customers.

Will shows ever be replaced by technology, such as a virtual show floor with virtual booths? Will the sessions be replaced by video conferencing and webinars? It all depends on whether you believe in shaking hands and making eye contact. That subtle nonverbal communication is what's missing with technological communication. If you want to ink a deal at the show, there is nothing like a face-to-face meeting.

So as you struggle back to your hotel room with a pile of brochures and wonder how you will close your suitcase, was it all worth it? Well, I hope it was. I hope you found that widget to complete your new digital workflow, or perhaps you discovered a new business opportunity. NAB is four days of discovery — some planned, some serendipitous.

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