I’ve said this before, the SHOT Show is such a wonderful experience it’s almost a must-attend event if you’re serious to learn more about the outdoors product industry—particularly if guns and hunting are your predominant interests.
Back two decades ago, when I was attending some of my first SHOT Shows, I was a wide-eyed, gung-ho young lad just a few years out of college hungry to experience anything related to the outdoors. Indeed, the thought of walking miles of show floors looking at a multitude of hunting-related products for several days on end was like…well, to sum it up into one word—HEAVEN!
I distinctly remember darting into the Press Room occasionally during the show if for no other reason than a chance at a quick refreshment or to give my tired feet a quick break from the constant pounding of walking on cement at the convention centers. There, I would see several of the elder curmudgeon outdoors writers just hanging, socializing and otherwise doing their own thing. Often I thought to myself…guys(and yes gals), there’s a world of excitement out on the show floor offering tons of new products to make our hunting and outdoors life better…get out to learn about it.
But alas, these veteran outdoor scribes walked to the beat of a much different drum than I did at that time. They were content to spend hours on end just hanging close to the Press Room…talking, laughing, picking up some literature in the form of press kits, perhaps doing an interview or two with a celebrity who walked by…and then filing a story via CompuServe or some other now antiquated telecommunication manner.
A lot has changed in two decades. And I’m not just talking about how stories are transmitted for publication, either. I’m talking about my attitude and the value I see in spending time at the SHOT Show Press Room. During the brief two days I spent at the show itself this year I tried to maximize my time out on the show floor vigilant for new products and trying to see as much as I could. Still, I had meetings, etc. that brought me to the Press Room which allowed me to spend more time there this year than any previous year. And am I glad it happened that way.
What I discovered is one of those “aha” moments in life. As I was sitting on the plane traveling home from the show I was thinking how now I finally understand what those outdoors writers who were my mentors 20 years ago were doing. They weren’t lazy and there just for the social aspect—albeit, having great conversation and networking should be fun—they were there accomplishing more than I was likely doing running around often aimlessly on the show floor looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack” that really didn’t matter anyway.
No, this year my short time spent in the Press Room was found to be invaluable making connections with people I had only met via Twitter, my blog or on Facebook…being introduced to totally new folks who represented exciting opportunities for me…to even meeting a person who has a master’s degree in journalism with an emphasis on blogging. Go figure…ten years ago such a degree specialty would have been unheard of…but now I have a new connection and someday soon I hope to introduce my blog’s readers to her.
All of that being said…one of the other side benefits of hanging in the Press Room is meeting new people who need me. How do they need me? Well, they have a product that perhaps isn’t on the show floor because did you know the SHOT Show has a waiting list consisting of several hundred wannabe exhibitors who, due to space limitations, don’t get the opportunity. That’s right…some folks are at the show under some designation as “non-exhibiting ______________ (supplier, manufacturer, etc.)” just to get a feel if the show would be the right fit for purchasing future exhibit space when it becomes available.
Bottom line is for writers spending time in the Press Room becomes like the watering hole for these individuals who have no other place to showcase their wares. Now, very honestly I’m not even sure if this contact in the Press Room falls under the strict definition of “carpetbagging” or “suitcasing” which the SHOT Show management has strict rules about…but it happens throughout the show in a very unobtrusive, under-the-radar manner to many of us writers. I did, in fact, warn several of the solicitors of this rule.
Just to give an example, as there were many, many others…but two interesting outdoor products I discovered after being approached by the representatives were:
- Paqlite — perhaps the best way to describe it would be to refer to it as small minerals (about the size of aquarium gravel) that contains natural light-emitting properties all packaged into a vacuum-packed food material. Recharged by sunlight, glows all night, no batteries, easy to pack, weighs less than 4 ounces…and perhaps best of all, will last forever.
- Go-&-Glo — An LED light that snaps onto the back of your wristwatch weighing less than .5 ounces thus ensuring you always have a light source with you provided you are wearing a watch. I couldn’t find a website for this manufacturer, but a phone number appears to be (800) 763-7442.
Next year, I have definite plans to spend more time at the Press Room and to do so more as a planned part of my SHOT Show experience. Oh for cripes sakes maybe I’m turning into one of those old outdoors writers with whom I used to shake my head about in disgust. Or—and by the way I prefer looking at it this way—maybe I’ve finally discovered how the personal experience at the SHOT Show can be so enriching no matter where a person happens to enjoy spending their valuable time.
©2011 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.