For the second year in a row, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) cancelled their annual NAB Show. This was one of those rare opportunities where the right decision was made in spite of the money.
The NAB Show is legendary in our industry as a showcase of the latest media technology, expansive lectures and learning opportunities, and a chance for everyone in our industry to hobnob and buy each other drinks.
As Clayton Moore wrote in an email to me: “Humans like to congregate, it’s fun! It makes you feel alive. The energy and visiting with other people and marginal food
and bags of useless swag. The hustle and bustle. The sheer hit of technology [combined with] inevitable ideas and related conversations. Fun!”
Last year, for the first time in its history, the NAB canceled the show due to the growing ravages of the COVID pandemic. This year, with high hopes the pandemic would be receding, they scheduled it for its regular slot in April. But, COVID had other plans. So the NAB postponed it till October.
But, again this year, COVID infections took a turn for the worse and, on September 15th, the NAB made the painful decision to cancel their annual event for the second time. The Association wrote:
“For more than a year we have worked tirelessly to bring our industry together safely in Las Vegas at NAB Show. Unfortunately, the pandemic and surge of the Delta variant has presented unexpected and insurmountable challenges for our global community.
“As we have always kept the best interest and safety of the industry as our priority, it has become apparent in the face of these challenges that we can no longer effectively host NAB Show or our co-located events, the Radio Show and Sales and Management Television Exchange, in person.
“NAB Show is the premiere destination for the media and entertainment industry and we will not move forward with a show that delivers anything less than the excellent our community has come to expect and deserves from us.”
There is no doubt this was a difficult decision. The NAB Show is an essential part of many companies’ marketing plans. Plus, the ability to get an in-depth look at our entire industry is equally important for many of us as we attempt to plan how we’ll implement media technology in the future.
But, in addition to being difficult, it was also smart and brave and correct. It takes courage to ignore the money and make a decision based upon what’s right for attendees and exhibitors.
I wrote Chris Brown, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Global Connections and Events at the National Association of Broadcasters. In it, I said:
“I love the NAB Show – it is my favorite trade show. But this was absolutely the right decision to make. What you’ve done is delay the show for a year, but preserved it for the future.
“This must have been an enormously difficult decision. You have my sympathy – and respect. This took courage.”
Chris responded, in part:
“I appreciate the kind words, Larry. This is difficult on so many fronts. I am deeply disappointed for all of us, but cinching up to stay focused on what can be accomplished down the road.”
What made this decision so remarkable, to me, was that it would have been easy for the NAB to simply say: “The show is going on. Everyone who wants to come is welcome!” Easy because it puts the burden of deciding what to do on each individual person attending the event. It’s also easy because the NAB gets to keep the money, which, even in a reduced show, is substantial.
But, easy is not leadership. The NAB wisely decided that leadership requires short-term pain for long-term respect. What mattered more was not the money, but their audience. And in today’s world, those kinds of decisions are rare.
I look forward to attending the NAB Show next spring. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
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