My 10 Best NAMM Show Tips

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The NAMM Show and Summer NAMM are always fun times to see new products, meet new people and catch up with old friends. But as retailers, we need to make sure we're getting the most out of each show. With all the fun distractions, remember that we're there to work. It’s easy to watch every demo, concert and artist signing, but if you do that, you won't leave your first booth.

Now, it may sound as if I’m all work and no play, but the world around us is changing. What we used to do isn’t as effective anymore. Consider the following:

Time equals change. The more things around you change, what used to lead to success will eventually lead to failure. We need new ideas and approaches just to maintain our positions in the marketplace.

With that in mind, here are my top 10 tips on getting the most out of NAMM shows.

1. Attend NAMM Idea Center sessions. Go to the NAMM website before the show, and check out the Idea Center schedule. Then, using an online calendar that syncs to your smartphone, plan your booth appointments around the NAMM U sessions that you want to check out. Also, schedule your staff to attend NAMM U sessions, and have them take notes.

2. Schedule vendor appointments. Don’t wing it! You'll have a hard time talking with anyone if you just walk up to a booth. (This is especially true of brands you don't carry but would like to, namely the big-name brands.) Remember: Your time is limited. You don't have to meet with someone just because he or she asks for a meeting. Conserve your time, and plan your meetings using a map of the show floor to keep from walking back and forth.

3. Set a budget. Again, don't wing it. Have a plan for what you'll order. If you don't, you might as well hand over your wallet. Listen to the vendor's presentation, and take some time to think about what's best for your store. Let the excitement of a new product or great presentation pass before you write an order. You will save tons of money.

4. Schedule a pre-NAMM meeting for staff. This is a great opportunity to set the tone for the trip. You want your crew to know that they're attending the show to improve your business—and your bottom line. Explain what's expected of them, and get their input on what they want to accomplish.

5. Schedule a post-NAMM meeting for staff. Do this before the show or else it might not happen. This is a great time for everyone to share what he or she got out of the show, and most importantly, it’s your opportunity to create an action plan. Don't try to implement all your new ideas in the first six weeks. Spread them out over the next six months to a year. At Springfield Music, we actually do daily wrap-up meetings at night. Then, after the show, we have our final wrap-up right before we leave or in the car if we're driving.

6. Take advantage of free food. Attend the NAMM U Breakfast Sessions. The breakfast is always excellent, and it's free! Also, the morning panels and presentations are usually very good. Bonus tip: Before the show, ask your best suppliers if they would like to take you and your crew out to dinner one night. This alone could save you hundreds of dollars.

7. Wear comfortable shoes. You'll be doing lots of walking.

8. Bring a camera or video recorder. Use it to record product demos. Generally, the artists doing the presentations are trained professionals, so the demos are very good. You can show this footage to the crew back home for product training and reuse it in your social media.

9. Bring your own bag. Don’t be that person carrying the free bag from a vendor. You'll hate that by the end of the week. Find a messenger bag or backpack with comfortable straps and plenty of storage. Bonus tip: Be selective when taking literature. Otherwise, you'll need your own personal porter to get all your swag back home. I clean out my bags when I’m packing to go home, and I only keep the stuff I know I’ll need. A smarter idea is to take business cards, and get the vendor to mail literature to you.

10. Join Independent Music Store Owners (iMSO). This is a great group that supports, encourages, educates and inspires the independent music store owner through the sharing of knowledge and experience. Find out more at

Using these tips has helped me build my company, Springfield Music, into a five-location, NAMM Top 100 dealer. Follow them, and I’m confident your business will improve, too.