The NAMM Show Plan: How to Prepare, Work the Floor and Follow-Up

After twenty-nine years of attendance, our business developed a fine-tuned, NAMM Show pre-plan. Here are a few pages from our playbook to create a successful experience.


We always get excited about our trip to The NAMM Show. It is not only a once-a-year opportunity to improve our business, but also a rare chance to be with industry peers and those from the NAMM organization that we consider to be our extended family (or NAMM-ily!).

The educational opportunities at NAMM U continue to revolutionize our operations. So much of what we know about retail and the industry was learned at NAMM, and the ideas we picked up there are partly the reason why we went from a little-known store to 2014 Dealer of the Year.

Together with our employees, we experience The NAMM Show and understand the full picture of our marketplace. We carry this awareness back to our store and share it with our staff, customers and students. From there, they go out and make even more music. That’s why we always like to say: the music begins at The NAMM Show!

Plan for Success

First, identify which staff members to bring along. We think it is essential to bring a meaningful portion of our team to the show with us, as the experience makes better salespeople and more dedicated employees. Prep them on the excitement of attending and what to expect. We recommend sharing past stories to illustrate what the show is really like. Additionally, we review how to best conduct vendor meetings, define goals, discuss vendor-specific issues and identify relevant information.

Be sure to utilize online resources. We scout the education and events schedule and identify NAMM U sessions pertinent to our business. From there, we assign NAMM U sessions to appropriate staff members. On the new My Show Planner tool, we can add events to each team member’s calendar and discover recommendations based on their specific interests. Combining these tools, we create a schematic to cross-reference staff, show days, NAMM U sessions and other sessions of interest such as the Coalition on Coalitions, Top 100 Member Reception, Marketplace Fairness Roundtable and Smart Women in Music reception. With these events blocked out, we begin booking appointments with vendors prioritized by the merchandising needs of our business. For example, if we’re looking to take on a new ukulele line, we build in visits to ukulele vendors and gather information to bring home and consider.

How We Work the Show

We always plan to arrive in Anaheim a day early for the Retail Innovation Summit, which is an intensive training session loaded with ideas to help improve your business. Every morning, we wake up early to attend the daily Breakfast Session. This inspirational, educational series is filled with trends and strategies, and it’s so worth losing that extra hour of sleep! From there, our company sets out on a divide-and- conquer mission of meetings, educational sessions and networking events. At the end of each show day, we all have drinks and share what we accomplished. We excitedly chat about what cool, new merchandise we saw, our fun experiences, any celebrities we met, what we learned and more. It’s a total blast because there’s always so much to share. Of course, it’s not all rest after the show day! There are post-show concerts, receptions, parties and events to visit! Finally, we consistently share our experience on social media so that those back home can attend The NAMM Show virtually through us.

Follow-Up and Implementation of Our NAMM Ideas

We hold a staff meeting right after the show to debrief and share our experiences with the entire group. We distribute the materials we collected about new products (and share show swag!) to include the whole team in making merch decisions. We then complete any orders not placed at the show. We discuss tips learned during NAMM U and collectively determine what to incorporate into our business and marketing plans, making decisions about how to implement new methods and policies. For example, we changed teachers from contractors to employee status from what we learned from a NAMM U session.

Then, for our marketing efforts, we create and unveil our “New from NAMM” webpage, showcasing our new product offerings. We share the website’s launch via email and social media and start pre-planning for the next show, which will take place back in Southern California, January 16—19, 2020!

Cindy Cook • NAMM Board of Directors
Co-Owner, Director of Marketing and Education
The Candyman Strings & Things