My 10 Best NAMM Show Tips


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.

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. The NAMM Show is the single easiest way to get inspired with new ideas to keep your business relevant.

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

1. Attend NAMM U sessions. Go to the NAMM website well before the show, and check out the NAMM U schedule. Then, using an online calendar that syncs to your smartphone, plan your vendor appointments around the NAMM U sessions that you want to check out. Also, I recommend that you require your staff to attend NAMM U sessions. That way, your team will pick up new ideas straight from the horse’s mouth that will change your business. Have your staff put their initials in the calendar appointment so you know who is going, and have them take notes. For sessions that look especially important, we’ll often have several people (maybe our whole NAMM Show team) at a single session.

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 carry, namely the big-name brands.) Remember: Your time is limited. If you spend as much time in the NAMM Idea Center as we do at Springfield Music, you won’t have time 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. One of our managers wrote a simple outline of what to expect, and we use that to review our expectations with all attendees before we leave home every year.

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 your team to share what they 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 nightly wrap-up meetings at the show. Then, on the last evening, we have our final wrap-up. (Sometimes, we opt to have this meeting 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 presentations and panels 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. I’ve noticed the women in our group will sometimes bring two pairs of shoes—one to walk from one end of the convention center to the other and another for when they are in booths.

8. Make the most of your smartphone. Use it to record product demos and take pictures, and post them to Facebook and Instagram. 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.  Facebook Live makes it very easy to broadcast the latest and greatest products to your fans and customers back home.

9. Bring your own bag. Don’t be that person carrying the free bag you picked up from a vendor. You’ll hate that by the end of the week. Bring 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 ask the vendor to mail literature to you.

10. Find an industry group or mentor. This is probably my No. 1 key to success (well, maybe No. 2 after the NAMM Idea Center). There are several industry groups that you could consider joining with like-minded people who are trying to grow their businesses. iMSO is a web-based group open to all store owners. There are also other groups, such as IMMG, Omega, AIMM and so forth, that are worth looking into. If they don’t work out, speak with a NAMM Idea Center presenter whose session really moved you, and ask if you can keep in touch and run questions and problems past them in the future. You’ll be amazed by how much help they can offer you—and the worst that can happen is they say “no.” You’ve got nothing to lose!

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.

Donovan Bankhead is the vice president of Sprinfield Music, which is headquartered in Springfield, Missouri.

* This article was originally written for The Music & Sound Retailer, and it is published here with permission.