I have come to realize there are a lot of mistakes that can be made at NAB. I should know, my first year I made every single mistake.
If this is your first time going, here are some tips to avoid some NAB pitfalls.
1) DO NOT TAKE ANY PAPER FROM A BOOTH
Every booth you stop at will offer you a pamphlet, booklet, flyer, brochure, or CD-Rom. At first you may say, whaaa??? Don’t I want all the information possible?
Yes, BUT there will be nothing on those pamphlets that isn’t on the companies website or PDFs. Second, going paperless is eco-friendly. And Third… You probably flew to Vegas with only a carry on bag… My first year I ended up with 3 tote bags of flyers, I ended up leaving every single one of them back in my hotel room when I realized my luggage was full… of luggage.
My tip is to instead setup a photo album on your phone and setup your camera app to target it. This may require you to download a new camera app so that it saves all of the photos into its own album. This way when you see something you like, snap a photo of it and look it up later when you get back home.
2) DO NOT LET ANYONE SCAN YOUR BADGE!!!!
You may say… but Andrew, isn’t scanning your badge a good thing? It’s eco-friendly because it’s paperless. They want to just scan my badge… they aren’t asking for a black market kidney.
Once you registered for NAB you may have noticed that you ended up on a few email list. Every scan of your badge is another email list… after 3 days… a modest 30 scans a day… You may end up on 100+ mailing list. I don’t know about you but my work email is for replying to producers about gigs. The last thing I need is SPAM filling up my main business email account. My tip here is to follow Tip #1 and use the camera on your phone. If it’s a company that excites you you’ll reach out to them.
3) USE YOUR MAP.
Use the map of the expo floor and plan your walking path. NAB is for professionals from across the whole broadcast and filmmaking community. I say this because my first year I said to myself “I wanna see it all”… I ended up in broadcast radio tower antenna land staring at booths that sold mega huge lamps that are installed to warn airplane. It was cool… ish… but was also a waste of my time.
The few seconds it takes to look at the map and find the vendors of gear you actually use will save you from wondering around. NAB is YUGE! I suggest also going to your favorite vendors Facebook pages and see if they post a photo of where their booth is on the map. More and more companies are doing that because NAB has just exploded beyond the 3 expo halls and has spilled over into multiple parking lots.
4) AVOID 99% OF THE FREE SWAG
For every T-shirt you are offered you will be offered 99 ball point pens… what do you plan to do with all those pens? You can’t use more then one pen at a time. How many pens do you plan on carrying on your person in the future? Do you plan on being THE PEN GUY who like always has a pen. No?
Most SWAG sucks. Those 3 LED flashlights thay run on 4 watch batteries… break really fast. Pencils? Who are We, Ted Mosby Architect? Tiny Swiss Army Knife… cool but TSA will take it from you unless you pay $25 to check that carry-on you brought to save the tiny Swiss Army Knife you got for free.
Woah, cool, a foam stress ball, I can never find my old foam stress ball when I need one. Thank goodness for Broadcaster’s United Technology Training Services’ sales rep who gave me that free foam stress ball. This stress ball fixes everything now………
Grab the stickers, those can look cool slapped to your pelicans. Spin the wheel of prizes at a booth to win “the good prize” but if you lose or end up with the crappy prize, just leave it behind at the booth.
5) EAT GOOD FOOD, DRINK WATER
NAB is massive. It’s very possible to walk 10 miles over the course of a single day. And around lunch you will notice that there is not enough food to go around.
First, the lines are long. You will either choose to skip the lines and soldier on and worry about food later. Or you will choose to wait in line for a hour. Neither are good solutions. If you do wait in line be prepared to have your wallet practically stolen. I remember last year it was roughly 6pm, people were filing out the doors. I spotted a pizza place with zero lines… I rush over… $10 a slice… drinks extra. There is nothing worst then eating junk food and knowing you spent three tines more then it was worth. Sadly there is no secret cheap food cart to guide you too. I travel with protein bars.
The other tip here is to drink water. It’s very easy to get dehydrated. You will be distracted by shinny SSD uncompressed recorders and $10,000 wireless transmitters… but remember to take care of yourself.
Avoid Uber when you want to leave the expo. There are free shuttles to almost all the major hotels. Grab a shuttle that’s going in the general direction you are headed for the after parties and Uber from there. The wait for Uber and ride sharing at the convention is super rough.
About the Author
Andrew Jones is a location sound mixer based in Los Angeles. He started in the TV and Film industry in 2004. You can email him at Andrew@HoldForSound.com