Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

April 2013

What Trade Show Still Rocks After 110 Years?

By Jennifer N. Dienst
be checked immediately at the ACC's front doors. This allowed attendees to roam the entirety of the ACC freely, as opposed to previous shows when badges were checked every time attendees exited and re-entered the exhibit halls after grabbing a coffee from the lobby or seeing a concert at the hotel next door.

“Members loved it and we got very positive feedback,” Johnstone said. “It changed the vibe of the show, and the fact that we were able to prop all of the [exhibit-hall] doors open was very positive for those exhibitors that were across the front of the exhibit hall.”

A Perfect Partner

Anaheim might not be the most obvious choice for NAMM — cities like New York and nearby Los Angeles house far greater shares of the music industry — but NAMM members are fiercely loyal to the city their show has called home for nearly every year since 1978.

From 1998 through 2000, while the ACC completed a three-year expansion and renovation project, the NAMM Show moved to the Los Angeles Convention Center. From an association standpoint, Johnstone said, L.A.'s CVB, convention center, and hotel community were “outstanding” in working together to make the show a success. But from an attendee standpoint, the move was disruptive. “The challenge was, they had developed longstanding, personal relationships with everyone from the bellman to the local restaurant community [in Anaheim],” he said. “So we disconnected them from that. And since they knew they'd be back in Anaheim, they weren't motivated to spend the time developing relationships in L.A.

“Our people are comfortable in Anaheim,” Johnstone said. “They love the people there.… They like walking out of the convention center, into the hotel across the street, and having a cocktail in hand within moments of leaving the show floor. More people know the name of the bartender at the Marriott than my name, and that's just fine.”

Anaheim's immediate convention-center campus includes the new Grand Plaza as well as multiple neighboring convention-hotel properties. The 1,572-room Hilton Anaheim and the 1,031-room Anaheim Marriott are so close that they almost serve as extensions of the show floor, housing larger exhibits, concerts, and, for the first time this year, registration and badge pickup areas. The Anaheim Marriott hosted two stages this year, and each year adds a pop-up restaurant to its lobby just for the NAMM Show; this year it served food-truck-style tacos. Even lobby décor and furnishings get updated or changed for the show.

Given that the NAMM Show is such a boon to the local economy — totaling $91.5 million in economic impact in 2013 — such accommodations make sense. In fact, the NAMM Show is so important that before he made the move to California to officially take over for retiring Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau President Charles Ahlers in February, Jay Burress traveled to see the show and meet the NAMM team. “The partnership and commitment NAMM has made to Anaheim over their history is one that has helped build Anaheim's reputation as a premier convention destination,” Burress said. “It's one of the great trade shows in our country.”

Breakout: Learning the Music

With 90,000-plus attendees and more than 520,412 net square feet of exhibit space packed to the gills with nearly 1,500 exhibitors — not to mention John Mayer just walked by — NAMM can be a distracting place. To make sure attendees don't miss a beat, NAMM offers The Idea Center — an educational classroom in the middle of the show floor.

“NAMM is such an overwhelmingly product-focused trade show, it's very difficult for our members to dedicate large amounts of time to education sessions,” said NAMM's Kevin Johnstone. The sessions are about 30 minutes each and are scheduled back-to-back throughout all four days of the show. Attendees are free to walk in anytime, sit down, and put on the headphones hanging on the back of their chair to tune in (and drown out Eddie Van Halen jamming away next door). Session topics are aimed at music retailers and touch on every aspect of the industry — technology, sales and marketing, finance, retail, music education, and more.

To catch attendees before they headed to the trade-show floor, NAMM also offered NAMM University Breakfast Sessions every morning at the Hilton Anaheim next door.

Innovative Meetings is sponsored by the Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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