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The NAB Show again approaches and the various survival guides are being recycled into the Internet. I wasn't going to post one this year just because there are so many other completely comprehensive fully illustrated and hypertext marked up guides out there a Google search away. But I've gotten a number of requests to share my experience with newcomers again so I thought about it a bit, and I guess I do have something more to add to the conversation beyond just comfortable shoes and protein bars.
Sure, it's obviously important to be physically prepared for the show. If you showed up to the convention center without ever having been briefed on what to expect, you'd burn out quickly and miss the good stuff anyway. So go and find those NAB survival guides and have a plan of attack. Consider that the 101 class. When you're ready, this is the 200 level: being mentally prepared for this mob of video geeks. You'll learn basic etiquette, humility, and coming away from the whole mess with maybe a friend or two.
Ronn (@rovino) knows me from Twitter and found me in the south hall!
1. Don't be intimidated.
Okay, try not to be intimidated. Okay, don't let any intimidation get in the way of your enjoyment. Last year, there were over 93,000 registrants from 156 countries, all packed into one of the weirdest cities in the United States. That's a lot of people.
Some people are intimidated by crowds, some by the idea of having to talk to so many people, some by the sheer number of bright blinking lights. Remember that a lot of those people are probably feeling just like you are about the whole thing. Ain't nobody judging you.
If anything, you might find some common ground on your newfound appreciation for sardines. Plus, you won't even see a lot of them unless you're into some heavy duty radio or broadcasting stuff. If you're in a class, say hello to people around you. Sitting down for lunch, say hello to people around you. See a pattern? I know it sucks and it's difficult to talk to strangers, but try it once and see how it goes.
2. Aim to meet people.
Kes (@nle_ninja) & I "met" on Twitter, met at NAB 2012, and spent 2013's show dressed alike to promote our podcast!
Unless you're going to NAB specifically to buy things for your company and come home, I don't see the point in attending without aiming to meet people. You're in Vegas with perhaps thousands of the most like-minded people you'll ever find. It's like OKCupid, but instead of searching for your soul mate, you're looking for that person who will debate the pros and cons of various archival systems until the wee hours...who may also be your soul mate, but hey, take it slow okay?
How d'ya meet people? Find people you know online or people whose blogs or articles or books you've read, and introduce yourself. Go to some of the evening events like my Cards Against Humanity casual hangout fun (Monday, 9, LVH!) or the #postchat meetup (Sunday, 8, O'Sheas!) You'll find all kinds of tweet-ups, parties, hang-outs, events, and get-togethers listed online.
3. That said, plan your evenings wisely.
Once you see all the stuff that's going on at night
, you'll be tempted to stretch yourself thin. Remember that Vegas is big. You can't go everywhere and do everything. If you do, you might not be able to scrape yourself off your dirty casino hotel bathroom floor the next morning to go back out to your classes or exhibit hall for more education and scavenging.
Pick the things that seem like they'll have the best reward -- somewhere you know some friends will be, or where you know you'll be able to network with the right people. If it doesn't work out, you can always move on, but trying to get to 5 parties in one night?
Well, just remember how all those Redbulls are going to feel tomorrow.
4. It's okay to be alone.
Bright lights, tons of people. It's okay to be alone for a while if you've had your share of the whole thing. If you can find the careful balance between too many people and being a lone wolf, you should feel pretty capable of pulling this whole thing off and getting home in one piece, only lightly traumatized. A couple hours in your hotel room or even a solo walk along the strip is often a sufficient reset button for short bursts of social interaction.
5. Don't be a jerkface.
I spent this post reminding you to put yourself out there and be kind to your brain and body and meet people and be alone. Now I'm reminding you: don't be a frigging' jerkface to anyone. If you're a little tentative on social interaction and meeting new people, you should treat everyone else how YOU would like to be treated. Someone introduce themselves? Be kind and courteous and make an effort to get to know them a bit. If they're a weirdo, obviously you can bail, but in a NICE WAY.
If you're at NAB, a large part of your experience should be spent networking because you don't have the opportunity to meet so many people from so many different aspects of video life at any other event all year. If you're arrogant or dismissive, you've blown it.
There are so many guides and stuff about the NAB show, you'd think it were some kind of grand adventure to the moon. But in a way it kind of is, isn't it? But that doesn't mean you need to overthink the whole thing. NAB is crazy, but it's still just a bunch of broadcast geekery filled with awkward humans like you and me. So get your comfy shoes and socks, meet some people, learn some new things, and have fun. And if you see me around, please stop me and say hello. I don't usually
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