Another Successful SHOT Show Exhibitor Academy

Update: Read a review from TSNN Here

Being an exhibitor at one of the top trade shows in the US can be a daunting task.  National Shooting Sports Foundation and ConvExx created a special education workshop for SHOT Show exhibitors.  Now in its third year, the Exhibitor Academy was established to provide exhibitors with a face-to-face opportunity to meet with the SHOT Show team.  Goals include how to best exhibit at the show, and work with all the vendors that produce the show to ensure methods they can have the best ROI and positive experience.  While the previous Academies were open to long-time exhibitors, 2016 was open to exhibitors of three years or less or companies with new exhibit managers.  Exhibitors only needed to pay airfare to attend the event.  All other expenses were handled by NSSF and partners.

The two and half day meeting included sessions with NSSF staff and Show Management company, ConvExx on best practices and common pitfalls that many companies become victim to without continuous education and reinforcement.   Highlights of the Academy included a panel of buyers who shared how they prepare for the Show, a mini trade show with the SHOT Show vendors and an insider tour of the Freeman Company warehouse and design offices.    Exhibitors were also able to meet one-on-one with Show Management , Freeman and Sands Expo Services to review their exhibit spaces, receive clarification on policies and gain insight into saving money for their specific exhibit needs.

As a final event, ConvExx created an interactive game called “The Amazing Race to the SHOT Show”, where exhibitors were able to use the knowledge they gained over the few days in a fun, exciting manner.

Exhibitors commented that the Academy was well worth the time away from their offices.   One was overheard to say “If I only had one hour of this event, it was well worth it – having two days was priceless.”

SHOT Launch

We all know what a trade show with 67,000 attendees, 1,500 exhibitors and 2,000 members of the media typically looks like about 7 months from the show.  Now picture it without a management team, contracts for its convention center facility, its partner hotels, a general service contractor as well as all others vendors it takes to put on a Gold 100 trade show and you have the 2014 SHOT Show.

To provide some background, while the National Shooting Sports Foundation owns the SHOT Show, it had been produced by Reed Exhibitions for over 30 years.  Following the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, 2012, and immediately prior to the 2013 SHOT Show, Reed Exhibitions made business decisions as it relates to another event in their portfolio that ran counter to the industry the SHOT Show and NSSF represents.  The shooting sports industry made a decision at that time that Reed could no longer manage our industry’s signature event and the next several months were spent dissolving the relationship.

Fast forward to May, 2013.  NSSF began the process of interviewing candidates to manage and market the SHOT Show and was left with no contracts to host or produce the 2014 SHOT Show as all contracts were with Reed and not NSSF.  The only contracts it had were with the exhibitors that had renewed their contracts to exhibit at the 2014 SHOT Show.  NSSF spent all of four weeks conducting an RFP and interview process and a decision was made to retain ConvExx to manage the SHOT Show during the first week of June.  That left half a year to produce and market the show…from scratch.

The ConvExx team traveled to NSSF’s offices toward the end of June to conduct a deep dive into the SHOT Show.  Bear in mind that traditionally a show management company would have an opportunity to evaluate the show for years and visit at least one of the preceding shows in order to fully understand not only the event but the industry it serves.  That was not possible here.  ConvExx had to learn the show and industry at a very quick pace, all while putting the show together in a limited period of time.  Not to mention that all contracts with Sands Expo Center, Freeman, onPeak, Compusystems, and others had to be negotiated.  Registration had to open with just two short months to prepare as well.

Naysayers throughout the industry said it couldn’t be done; and expectations of most outsiders (and even many insiders) were aimed at just holding a show would be a win…with a nominal drop in attendance and customer satisfaction “not dropping too much”.

Just a month later, and only two months after a contract was executed with Compusystems, attendee registration opened for the 2014 SHOT Show.  New qualification rules were written and new procedures were put in place to re-qualify every individual desiring to attend the SHOT Show.  Customer Service for attendee registration was handled internally at ConvExx’s offices to help facilitate the new qualification process.  The new process worked, and not only did registration exceed expectations, it blew it away.  Surpassing 67,000 attendees, the amount of attendees was impressive to all who witnessed given it increased from 2013 by 8%; however the most gratifying aspect of the registration process in 2014 was the customer satisfaction reports coming back indicating it was the most qualified attendee base that had come to the SHOT Show in years.

As far as the exhibitors were concerned, it was another sell-out event at the Sands Expo Center.  Exhibitor satisfaction following the 2014 SHOT Show came back as the highest rating ever.  The coordination between Freeman, ConvExx and Sands Expo Center for both the move-in and move-out was cited as one of the key factors in the exhibitors’ positive view of the 2014 SHOT Show.

SHOT Exhibitor Academy

National Shooting Sports Foundation and ConvExx, during its first year working together in producing the SHOT Show, conducted the first-ever SHOT Show Exhibitor Academy.  The Academy, free of charge to SHOT Show exhibitors, provided established exhibitors with a face-to-face opportunity to meet with the SHOT Show team and not only learn how to best exhibit at the show, but work with all the vendors that produce the show on examining their own past performance and ways in which they can each save money.

Along with two days of seminars, including both general sessions and smaller break-out sessions, exhibitors were encouraged to meet with Freeman, Venetian Hotel, Sands Expo Center, onPeak, and other contractors that make up the SHOT Show team and review prior invoices, better explain and understand their own situations, as well as modify their plans so their companies can achieve greater ROI at future shows.

ConvExx met with exhibitors individually as well to review their past booth designs, already having pictures of every booth from the most recent show, in order to educate exhibitors on best practices and common pitfalls that many companies become victim to without continuous education and reinforcement.

The Venetian, Palazzo and Sands Expo Center also hosted a tasting tour of many of their best venues for hospitality throughout their campus, including such highlights as Delmonico’s Steakhouse and DB Brasserie.  Not only did exhibitors get to experience the finest of what the five-star resort has to offer, but also get new ideas of what can be taken advantage of by having the unique opportunity of having the SHOT Show in the all-encompassing property.

Lastly, NSSF and its partners provided direct savings in return for attending the SHOT Show Exhibitor Academy, including discounts on sponsorship opportunities and show services.

At the 2014 Exhibitor Academy, at the closing session in which all attendees are to ask show management and key staff any question they have (titled “Take Your Best SHOT!”), an audience survey was conducted which asked all exhibitors in attendance whether they would recommend the Exhibitor Academy to other exhibitors.  97% indicated YES.  Not a bad result for a first-time event!