Whether you’re an exhibitor who hasn’t missed a SHOT Show since it began 40 years ago or you’re a newer manufacturer wanting to become an exhibitor, it’s a fairly well-known fact that there’s a waiting list for space. Right alongside that fact, though, is an abundance of myths about that list.
At the top of the myth list is the one that goes, “Oh, nobody new ever gets in this show. If you’re on the waiting list, you’re on there forever.”
It should be obvious that “nobody new ever gets in the show” is fallacy. There's some amount of booth turnover every year and that frees up space to allow both a number of current exhibitors to make changes to their booth location or size and admit several new exhibitors to the main show floor.
Second, our NEXT Pavilion, which was introduced for the first time at the 2016 show, has been a tremendous success, with more than 100 new exhibitors then and in 2017 making their debut appearances. Taken together, on average 145 exhibitors are new to the SHOT Show every year, distributed between the main floor and the NEXT Pavilion on the Press Room mezzanine.
Which brings me to the second myth about the waiting list, the one that goes, “You have to ‘know somebody’ to move off the list.”
Well, no, you don’t (though there is an advantage to being an NSSF Member company — more on that in a bit). Here’s how the waiting list really works:
- Companies wishing to be placed on the waiting list for SHOT Show exhibitor space first complete the SHOT Show Wait List Form.
- Each form is audited by NSSF to determine the company’s appropriate “tier.” These tiers help balance the mix of show exhibitors and serve the overall needs of the industry, while also keeping the overall look and feel of the show fresh. They include:
- Tier 1: Firearms, ammunition, firearm components, optics
- Tier 2: Firearms accessories, safes, holsters, law enforcement & tactical (except firearms), targets, cutlery
- Tier 3: Anything else related to the hunting and shooting industry not defined by Tiers 1 and 2
- Note: Companies that participate in NSSF’s On-Deck marketing program will be placed at the top of their assigned tier. (We’ll have more about the On-Deck program in a later post, but for those who have questions now, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
- Each company applying for a position on the waiting list is notified of its tier classification upon completion of the audit.
- In May, NSSF completes booth change requests from current exhibitors and assesses the remaining floor space.
- Those exhibitors who were part of the previous year’s NEXT Pavilion are then offered space on the main show floor and the main floor maps completed.
- Next, companies on the waiting list to become exhibitors are now invited to be part of the aptly named NEXT Pavilion. The NEXT Pavilion is the first point of entry for any manufacturer or industry service provider on the waiting list for exhibit space and those companies are invited in the following order:
- Tier 1 NSSF Voting Member companies
- Tier 1 NSSF Member companies
- Tier 1 NSSF non-members
- Tier 2 NSSF Member companies
- Tier 2 NSSF non-members
- Tier 3 NSSF Member companies
- Tier 3 NSSF non-members
- All new exhibitors receiving the invitation to exhibit in the SHOT Show NEXT Pavilion complete the NEXT Exhibitor Application. Once each application is accepted, the exhibitor pays their booth deposit, thereby confirming their attendance. (Note: Within that application is the ability to request traditional booth space downstairs in the main exhibit hall if a space becomes available. It is from those applications that we have the ability to assign some first-time exhibitors a 10-foot x 10-foot (100 square-foot) booth in the exhibit hall.
Yes, it’s a process, but that’s to be expected with a show of this size. What’s important to understand is that new exhibitors are essential to the success of every SHOT Show. We need and want fresh blood, new ideas and next-trending innovations just like any other industry.
If we could move everyone off the waiting list at one time we would — and we are constantly exploring avenues that we hope will allow us to do just that in the near future. But for now, know that making it to the show floor isn’t impossible and you don’t need to “know somebody” or grease a palm to get there. You just have to have a little patience. So cue the Carly Simon “Anticipation” song and remember that often the best things in life are the one’s worth waiting for.