I’m really not sure why it is this year…but for some reason(s) I’m pumped even more than usual to travel to Las Vegas next week for the 33rd Annual SHOT Show (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show). Maybe it’s the fact that here in Minnesota, like several other parts of the country, we have been deluged with snow and cold to the point I’m left yearning for a climate somewhat more inviting.
Maybe its the fact that with current events in our nation such as they are I’m feeling the need to commiserate with fellow gun associates while the mainstream media continues to have its field day twisting and turning their reporting to make us law-abiding gun owners look bad. I dunno.
Then again, maybe my batteries just need to be re-charged by observing some fresh, new, outdoor product ideas that will soon be hitting the store shelves. Something that can enhance the way I enjoy the outdoors…and not distract from it. You know, the next “better mouse trap,” so to speak.
All of this contemplating got me thinking about the many reasons why the SHOT Show is important for me to attend. Keep in mind, the reasons I’m about to list are personal and may not apply to everyone. Still, the SHOT Show is an event like no other I can compare it to.
Oh, sure, if you’re into the world of archery then last weekend’s ATA Trade Show (Archery Trade Association Show) might be your little slice of heaven. And mind you, I’m not taking anything away from ATA. I’m old enough to remember when the SHOT Show basically WAS the archery show, too, before several manufacturers broke away to start their own separate trade event.
So, in no particular order of importance, ponder these reasons why I consider the SHOT Show an important annual part of my professional life:
- Legitimacy — quite honestly if you are serious about what you do in the outdoors, whether it be to manufacture a product, market a service, re-sell goods at the retail level, or even report in the media about what’s new…there’s a certain expectation for you to be at the show.
- Networking — bring plenty of business cards and get them distributed. In return, expect to pick up even more cards than you hand out. The key to success at the show is to be proactive in making business connections. Don’t be shy…strike up meaningful conversations and make things happen for your advantage. One of my colleagues made his best connection one year standing outside the building having a smoke break with some other individuals. The random connection thru chit chat turned out to be worth thousands of dollars in eventual sales.
- Listen — as silly as this may sound, I’ve learned an incredible amount of information just eavesdropping on other conversations. One of the best places to do this is the bus ride from the convention center back to the hotel. Often I hear about exhibitors promoting this or that. I hear about challenges faced in the industry. Heck, one time I heard a product developer give a short dissertation on what makes one type of LED light different than other such lights. At SHOT, you just never know what you might learn to further improve your industry knowledge.
- Discover — I suppose this is sort of a no-brainer, but innovation is what makes this industry tick. The proposition of seeing new outdoor products is what drives most people to attend over and over again.
- Pulse — much like we all monitor our own personal health and well-being, there is no better place than SHOT to observe industry trends and to gauge the overall vitality of the outdoors and the shooting industry many of us cherish. I guarantee when a person spends 3 or 4 days walking the show floor you eventually walk away with a greater understanding and appreciation for the state (health) of the industry.
- Deals — Let’s face it, exhibitors have just spent thousands of dollars to showcase their best products to a buying audience. Incentives are galore whether it be free shipping, free product, special offers, no interest financing, and on and on. And while the SHOT organizers frown on direct selling from the booths…it still happens and great deals are commonly made. This is especially true during the last day when exhibitors are soon faced with the notion of tearing down their display and they don’t want to take product back home with them.
- Location — Okay, I’ll openly admit that WHERE the SHOT Show is held is a big drawing point for me. Typically now it bounces between either Las Vegas or occasionally in Orlando. The SHOT not only becomes a legitimate travel expense, but during the off-hours if the venue is exciting for some night life…well, let’s just say this turns out to be a big bonus.
- Knowledge — got a technical question about handloading some unique ammunition caliber…the expert is there. Need dependable advice for a boot sole that tends to work best on a particular terrain? The answers to your most perplexing questions are not only handled by experts in their field…but often times it could be the person who developed the very product you need.
- Marketing — you’ll likely learn more about product sales and marketing by spending a day walking the show floor than you would by spending an entire semester in some college marketing class. Honestly, by keeping your eyes and ears open the show can be a tremendous learning experience—both good and bad. I find it fascinating to see what sales techniques actually engage show attendees compared to what other ideas…well, let’s just say didn’t seem to work quite as originally planned.
- Celebrity — even though the presence of outdoor celebrities seemingly everywhere doesn’t captivate my attention like it did 20 years ago, it’s still neat to see. Indeed, the SHOT Show has many ways to generate excitement and seeing high profile people with whom you typically only get to connect with on TV or magazines or videos…well, it’s just cool to see. Let’s leave it at that.
Truly, I wish anybody who holds a passion for the outdoors can get to experience the SHOT Show at least once in their lifetime. Words and pictures alone just don’t adequately portray what a spectacle it is to behold. Unfortunately, the SHOT Show is not for everyone as it’s an industry event reserved for the trade only. That means unless you own a business selling firearms, wholesale product at the show, help market those products, or work as the media…you will likely be denied entry.
That said, beginning on Monday and all next week I hope to be reporting from SHOT here on this blog, also on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/SportsmansBlog) as well as on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/jim7226). If you can’t make it to the show this year, I hope you will tag along as I plan to do my best to report on what I see.
©2011 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.