By Ben Langlotz | February 12, 2019 | Firearms | 0 Comments
I’ll report on the health effects and proposals for the future, later in this issue. Meanwhile, for SHOT Show number 18, I continued a more relaxed approach I started last year. Instead of worrying about visiting every client, friend, and lead I possibly could, I focused on simply having a good show, and making each day count. As a Buddhist friend put it: “You’re not supposed to keep constantly shaking the snow globe – you’ve got to let the snow fall and settle to appreciate it.” By my rough review of the checkmarks on my “must visit list” I had over 120 meetings or visits, so figure about 250 hands shaken.
Even with all those visits, I really did miss seeing some great friends and clients, but there’s always next year, plus NRA, NASGW, etc. I make a special point of alerting everyone to request a meeting in advance if they want to be assured of a visit, and I also have “Office Hours” in the Caliber Club meeting rooms.
My First Home at the SHOT Show
Incidentally, the Caliber Club is highly recommended for anyone who isn’t an exhibitor but who might need a home-away-from-home at the show. It’s on the 3rd floor down a hall from the NEXT exhibitors, and thus right on the way when entering the Show from the secret Shopping Mall level entrance to the show – when you’re in St. Mark’s square just keep left instead of going down the escalator. A pleasant but lonely guard will check your badge, and you’ll avoid the crowds while your lungs thank you for avoiding the casino floor.
The Caliber Club opens at 7:30AM (1 on Monday) with a high-carb breakfast and fine coffee service. There are soft drinks and bottled water to grab and go all day long. Lunch is either sandwiches and chips, or an opulent hot buffet with multiple choices in each category, two days of each. In the afternoon a complimentary bar is offered. The room is filled with round dining tables for informal conferences and conversation, and is quieter than the show floor – though I’m not sure about the metal head music selections. There are computers for internet access and printing, and reportedly package receiving service – not sure about that. I also like being able to cache supplies and store departure-day luggage on the Club.
My favorite facilities are the private conference rooms that can be reserved upon arrival. I host an afternoon of meeting with clients who want to speak confidentially away from booths and with non-exhibitors who appreciate a professional space to meet away from the Show floor. The wonderful hosts treat all my guests with generosity and a “help yourself” attitude. As they don’t let patent lawyers rent booth space, it’s a good solution for me. I don’t weigh the $250 cost against the food and beverage benefits (though not ever waiting in line adds tremendous value) and think of the meeting rooms as my very well-priced “$250 SHOT Show booth.”
What I Loved the Most
Newbies! Show organizers have found some ways to get more new exhibitors into the show. I’ve applauded the NEXT section of small-table displays for newcomers, and this year I attended the Suppliers Showcase and Pop-up exhibitions.
Located conveniently in the same facility, the Supplier’s Showcase was dominated by companies that logically sell to SHOT Show exhibitors. They displayed springs, bar stock, coating capabilities, laser cutting machines, and more. Tucked in among them were a sampling of firearms companies that belonged in the main hall, just awaiting their turn.
I’d plan to attend the first day of the Showcase every year for a few hours, but learned of potential plans to move it to another location. Widespread rumors are that the hall sold out, and there were twice as many potential exhibitors as room allowed. Someone said 1200 (that’s 2/3 of a SHOT Show!) The 2020 location is rumored to be the MGM, and the Showcase will extend for a full four days if reports are correct. Most exhibitors who shared their opinion said they worried that no one will schlepp down to the other end of the strip to visit the remote show, and it might be a ghost town. I know I can’t take time away from SHOT to check it out, but maybe buyers from major companies can devote a day away to research suppliers.
This is a stroke of genius, and I hope we see more like this. For Wednesday only, in the same 4th floor hall vacated the prior evening by the Suppliers Showcase, this one-day exhibit was the highlight of the show. It was filled with newcomers who made a last-minute decision to exhibit. No waiting lists, no booth drawings. It looked to be based on the model of Southwest Airlines: get on the plane, find a seat. Granted, I’m sure booths were assigned, but they just filled up the hall. And it seemed to be full, which surprised me because as my team reviewed the exhibitor lists months earlier it looked pretty empty.
If I mourn the apparent loss of a convenient on-site Suppliers Showcase, I applaud the Pop-up concept. And if that gets over-subscribed, why not have more than one pop-up day? Or even multi-day options, with a Monday-Tuesday shift, and a new Wednesday-Thursday shift? I don’t have all the inside info, but I’m going to advise startup clients to consider last-minute exhibiting at the pop-up.
One amusing juxtaposition. Like two ladies that arrive at a party each in the same dress, there were two pop-up exhibitors exactly across from each other right at the center entrance aisle. Selling virtually identical eye-blinding bright LED safety vests and gear. While they may have had a hard time outshining each other, it might have been good for business so customers had competing choices.
Best Food of the Show
Pig ear appetizer at Bouchon. Imagine pork-belly French fries. I make Bouchon my home at the show for virtually every meal. Normally I enjoy variety, new flavors, and stimulating dining. But at the SHOT Show I don’t need any more stimulus so I retreat to the familiar confines of my “home kitchen.” Anyone looking for me before or after Show hours will probably find me here.
You call that a wheeled cart?
I left my own wheeled bag at home for the first time and lightened my load in response to peer pressure about wheeled carts blocking the aisles. But, if those brochure-collectors are bringing them back to their retail shop and helping customers decide what to order, then they’re supporting the industry, and I’ll happily step around or pay for the extra shoe shine to remove tread marks. A buyer’s a buyer!
Movin’ On Up!
Congrats to my client YHM for moving up to the 20,000 ballroom to the old Gemtech spot. I’m sure dozens of others were salivating over that prime 20 by 20 location. And, what a smart move to invest in an all-new booth design to make the most of the prime location. The visual branding with vivid blue light will make the booth a landmark for years to come.
“Innovate or Die.” Which is a bit more dramatic that I’d put it, but is consistent with my private and public observations of the keys to success in the industry and the difference between a flat market and a healthy upturn.
Do you trust Facebook Wisdom?
I noticed after the show that one Facebook friend who exhibited at SHOT polled his audience as to whether he should continue with the $8000 annual investment or skip SHOT altogether. By 96% to 4% the vote was to pull out (he said he did). Which may make sense for a more retail-oriented company, but still I wonder if consumers and fans who can’t even attend SHOT aren’t a little bit vulnerable to sour grapes syndrome and might not be the best mentors for a firearms manufacturer?
In the “click to send” era, it’s amusing to recall the story of Harry Truman and his angry unsent letters. He apparently had a secretary that would hold his angry letters until the next day, inevitably to the relief of the President when his emotions had cooled down, if the story is true. The tale usually ends with the secretary taking a vacation day and Truman getting in trouble.
Which sums up my health report on the SHOT Show, the first draft of this led off with a blustery report that’s best left unsent. Now, in the calm reflection of Day 11 of the flu as it subsides, I’ll just share a few cheerful thoughts:
1: Some years are probably worse than others, and the flood of Facebook flu reports might not be repeated next year if flu shots are a better match to the circulating strains.
2: Everyone knows that the show is unmissable. If you aren’t there, you might as well not exist. People will always attend even if sick, because we have to. Moreover, people can be sick enough to transmit illness and not yet be aware they’re infected. We can’t blame the “vectors.”
3: This might well be a serious enough issue for the NSSF or show organizers to bring in some experts to assist with proper messaging and facilities for best practices.
4: It’s hard to avoid handshakes. In our culture you simply can’t make a strong first impression or close an important deal without a firm handshake. Of course, those who are aware of being ill can and should certainly bow out of the handshake tradition.
5: My new approach to avoid self-infecting from hands to face will be a clean handkerchief in the pocket to rub itchy nose or eyes without transferring handshake microbes. Maybe my “Healthy Hanky” will turn out to work and become another SHOT Show giveaway and sponsorship opportunity?
See you at NRA!
It’s only a couple months away.