Planning for one brand to be represented at SHOT Show® is a big job. Planning for multiple brands under one umbrella serving multiple sectors of the industry, at the rate of 60 shows per year, is a year-round job for multiple people. We recently caught up with Michael Kinn, Events Director for Vista Outdoor, to see what this major vendor has underway for the 2021 SHOT Show in these challenging times—and why they wouldn’t think of missing it.
Kinn has been with Vista Outdoor for 14 years, and he has an additional six years in marketing prowess under his belt. He’s an avid hunter, especially of upland game. His son is in law enforcement, so he has personal ties to every Vista product line: ammunition, tactical gear, optics, shooting accessories, and hunting/archery.
Glad to be back at the office after working from home for some time due to COVID, Kinn and his team are gearing up for the 2021 SHOT Show. For Kinn, this will be his 20th SHOT Show.
Eve Flanigan (EF): What is the significance of SHOT Show to Vista Outdoor?
Michael Kinn (MK): SHOT Show has been the launching pad for either closing the deal or setting the stage for our biggest deals. Of the 60 shows we attend annually—including overseas—SHOT Show has the largest impact in terms of the sectors we can reach. It covers military, law enforcement and those who are in direct touch with consumers of our products outside of the government.
EF: The Vista Outdoor presence at SHOT is massive. What’s it like setting up what seems like acres of displays?
MK: It’s like building a house! It takes 20 people seven days to set up. The area covers 14,000 square feet, made with goods transported in by 18 to 20 semis. My daughter said, “Dad, that’s like a Taylor Swift concert!”
We have trusted relationships with a number of vendors to do all the advance planning for setup, and my dialog with them about 2021’s show regarding lodging, for example, begins before each show ends.
EF: As a member of media, I’ve always been amazed at the depth of product knowledge Vista’s staff shows. Tell me about coordinating the human side of Vista’s presence.
MK: Everybody in the house wants to go, but we do have to draw the line somewhere. It might not look like it, though, because we normally have 100 to 120 people in Vegas. Most stay for the whole show, but some are there for specific events and present only a day or two.
EF: What are the biggest staffing challenges you’ve had related to the show?
MK: I wouldn’t call them “challenges” because we are completely motivated! What requires planning is channeling that energy into making the show run smoothly. It never gets old. In fact, I get giddy thinking about it still.
I would say the most fun thing is to see is the response new employees have to the scale of it all—it’s marvelous! The scale of SHOT Show, it’s not really something that can be understood until you’ve been there.
Two years ago, for instance, we had a new employee who was setting up multiple live-media events. In the planning phase, she presented her show schedule to me. She had the week planned out in extreme detail, with back-to-back interviews in some cases. Every minute was accounted for. When I saw the schedule, all I could think is that it was so well done, but there was no way it could be accommodated given how SHOT SHOW actually runs. Say one person has to walk across two showroom floors to get to the interview. They’re going to run into people they haven’t seen for over a year and need to catch up along the way. They’re not going to pass that chance up. I knew that, but she didn’t, so I worked with her to build some cushion into the Facebook live segments to accommodate the ebb and flow of people. After the show, she thanked me for encouraging that flexibility, and she also had newfound skills when it comes to wrangling people. Her next year, her schedule ran like clockwork because she knew what to expect. It’s just something you can’t fathom until you’re there.
EF: Speaking of social media, what’s that like for Vista, to integrate it into everything else going on?
MK: Social media concerning SHOT Show is very prescribed. We do pre-, during-, and after-planning around it. Our team coordinates with global production-line managers to inform, engage and drive foot traffic.
EF: It’s looking like there’ll be lodging capacity limitations in Las Vegas and probably other changes to accommodate COVID-19 prevention efforts at the show. What adjustments are you making for virus prevention at the booth itself?
MK: We’re completely adjusting the displays to reduce multiple people touching an object in succession. Of course, there’ll be hand sanitizer available. We’re looking at ways to make booth ingress and egress decongested. There’ll be cleaning personnel who show up multiple times to disinfect throughout the show day.
Conference and meeting areas are related issues. We may eliminate the small meeting rooms and go with casual seating that accommodates distancing. Just sitting around a table casually, with no special meeting area, is the norm at the European shows, so we already have an idea how that might be.
Most important, we’re staying in touch with NSSF, whose communications with us about this have been regular. It’s a coordinated effort. The more people who sign on and make a concerted effort to keep it healthy, the better it’ll be. And no matter what, this is a long-haul mindset we have to be in. These adjustments could be in place for a long time.
EF: Any final thoughts for NSSF partners and SHOT Show news readers?
MK: The best thing about this business is the camaraderie. I enjoy the anticipation leading up to SHOT Show, knowing I’m going to be immersed in all aspects of our business. The products, they’re important, but the fellowship is critical. And it’s our priority to demonstrate support of NSSF. We never want to waiver in that loyalty, as NSSF is a vital force in support of our industry.
The thing about being at SHOT, for everyone there, is that the outdoor way of life is in our DNA. It’s a shared thing—and there’s no event like it for that reason. We wouldn’t miss it!