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Surviving the SHOT SHOW

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BY KATIE MCKALIP

The holidays are over, your flight to Las Vegas is booked and you’ve reserved a room on the Strip. It can mean only one thing: SHOT Show is just around the corner. Are you ready?
Sportsmen and industry professionals travel from around the world to attend the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show, or SHOT Show. The show, which will take place Jan. 19-22 in 2016, is the largest and most comprehensive trade show for the shooting, hunting and related industries.
More than 65,000 people usually attend, including industry workers, government officials and media members.
SHOT offers a wealth of opportunities to advance your career — if you make the most of it.
Make a plan.
“For media, the best advice I can provide is to make a plan before arriving at the show,” said Bill Brassard, director of communications for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which owns and manages the SHOT Show. “This includes making appointments with people you need to interview or film — and also remembering to use NSSF press room staff as a resource for story ideas and contacts.”
Glenn Sapir, former NSSF director of editorial services, seconded the value of the press room, which offers computers and printers as well as assistance with copying and faxes, for registered media attendees.
“Check your outerwear or luggage for free, grab a cup of coffee, review your schedule and begin your work day,” Sapir said. “Get the schedule of press conferences from an NSSF representative at the counter and see which ones you believe will be worthwhile to attend. Use the press room as a good resting place and work station, but don’t let its comfort prevent you from doing your job on the show floor.”
Hit the show floor.
Remember those 65,000-plus other attendees? You will when you hit the show floor and the 635,000 square feet of exhibition space nears capacity. Visiting with every one of the more than 1,600 exhibitors is impossible, so strategizing is essential. The website www.shotshow.org includes a complete list of exhibitors; review it before the show and pinpoint those you want to see. The SHOT website also offers navigational options, including an app, to help you plan the most efficient routes.
“If you don’t focus, the show can be overwhelming,” said SHOT veteran Mark Taylor. “Develop a list of priority companies or individuals and make those connections your top goal. Have your pitch or introduction ready to go, and keep it brief and to the point. Most importantly, follow up with those connections soon after the show.”
Preparation is key, agreed media consultant Jodi Stemler. “Everyone who is exhibiting is typically stacked up with regular meetings or is out touring the show floor themselves,” she said. “If you don’t set up appointments before the show there’s a good chance you won’t be able to spend quality time with the companies and individuals most valuable for you to meet.
“Keep in mind that you need to book plenty of time between appointments because it can take a long time to traverse the show floor. It’s really hard to line your schedule up so that all of your appointments are close together.”
Relax.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Longtime SHOT attendee Jay Cassell used to book appointments almost every half hour throughout the show.
“The last four or five years, I’ve backed off on that, and now make very few appointments,” he said. “This gives me the opportunity not only to renew old contacts but make new ones — and view new gear that I otherwise might have missed.”
Journalist T. Edward Nickens splits the difference.
“I’m always torn between making appointments with the people I know I want to meet and having enough time to wander the floor, discover all the cool new stuff out there and meet new folks,” he said. “So I stack my appointments back-to-back in the mornings and try to leave the afternoons open for exploring. And hitting the free beer in the late afternoon, of course.”
You laugh, but don’t overlook the value of informal social gatherings.
“Find the hot lunch – seriously,” said PJ DelHomme, Bugle magazine hunting editor. “After a couple years of eating hot dogs, I realized various media events and lounges near the press room offer good, free food, as long as you are working press and (this the key) register for the event beforehand. Once you register as media with NSSF, you’ll get more lunch invites than you have time for. It’s also a good chance to bump into editors and make small talk. Free food and a captive editor. What could be better?”
Check out the products.
While face-to-face meetings are valuable, just as important is SHOT Show’s main event: the firearms, ammo, knives, apparel, optics and related products. Make time to visit the new products area to see the innovative items being exhibited. The Industry Day at the Range, which happens the day before the show opens, lets you try new gear. It’s too late to snag an invite for 2016, but ask exhibitors to include you on invitee lists for next year’s show.
Press kits are available at exhibitor booths and in the press room. You also can ask exhibitors to send you informational materials after the show. They can obtain your contact info by scanning your badge — a handy shortcut that not only saves time but keeps you from hauling a 50-pound briefcase of product literature by day’s end.
Speaking of the ends of those very long days — use them wisely. Back at your hotel, review your notes, file business cards and other materials you want to keep, and jettison the rest. Beyond that, get some rest. You don’t have to resist the siren song of Las Vegas’ nightlife entirely, but try to indulge judiciously. ♦

—OWAA Supporter Liaison Katie McKalip is communications director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. She looks forward to seeing many of you at SHOT

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