SHOT On Demand Proves Big Success

Gun Trade World sits down, virtually, with Chris Dolnack, NSSF Senior Vice President & Chief Customer Officer to discuss the recent SHOT Show On Demand platform and the many positives that came out of the online show.

What was the thinking process behind On Demand? Were there other ideas put forward?

As it became more evident that the virus would be with us beyond the end of 2020 we explored our options for a digital platform that could provide exhibitors, buyers and media with a means to connect and bridge the gap to the 2022 show. We looked at a number of virtual event platforms and ultimately decided to expand upon our SHOT Show Planner since our customers are already familiar with it. 

What were the final numbers in terms of companies signed up, members participating, website traffic, etc? 

During the SHOT On Demand event, which covered parts of three consecutive weeks, NSSF hosted more than 20 online education sessions and provided a platform to connect with the show’s 2,000 exhibitors. More than 10,200 participants logged into the On Demand platform, yielding approximately 450,000 pageviews. We had participants from 92 countries (and speaking 62 languages!). It was interesting to see that buyers and media would log in multiple times a day and spend 10-13 minutes on the platform at a time.

It has obviously been a tough year for trade show organisers across the globe, what have you learned or what will you take away from this year?

To never take anything—or anyone—for granted. The COVID disruption to our show and our industry had a significant impact on NSSF that has resulted in our association becoming leaner and more focused. In times like these you gain a greater appreciation for members, customers and colleagues. 

What feedback have you had from NSSF members, exhibitors, media and buyers? 

The feedback on the virtual event has been mixed, which is what we expected given the completely different nature of a virtual trade show and is consistent from what our colleagues in the exhibition industry have also found. We know of show organisers who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on virtual platforms that yielded similar results. Our industry and customers are very tactile in that they want to touch and feel the product, how much it weighs, how it balances and the ergonomics. And you can often speak directly with the person who designed the product during a live SHOT Show, which just wasn’t possible in many cases with a virtual event. 

You must be confident that SHOT Show will be back in 2022 but is On Demand something that you would consider running again as a secondary business vehicle? 

We are extremely confident that the in-person SHOT Show will take place in 2022, yet we will likely offer SHOT Show On Demand as part of a hybrid model to supplement the live event post-show for those buyers that did not attend.

How do you feel the below features worked on a digital platform…?

New Product Gallery: More than 500 new products were listed in the New Product Gallery, and this section of SHOT Show On Demand was one of the most heavily visited by buyers and media alike. New products drive the market and are the number one reason that buyers and media visited, according to our post-event survey.

Virtual meetings with SHOT Show exhibitors:  It was interesting to see that many more small and medium size exhibitors utilized the virtual meetings and chat features than larger exhibitors that go to market through two-step distribution. Those that used it seemed to have good engagement with buyers and media.

Outdoor Sportsman Group “live” coverage on Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel: The SHOT Show New Product Premiere was a hit with consumers and exhibitors alike. We were fortunate that Outdoor Sportsman Group approached us with this partnership in that it brings “breaking news” directly to hunters and shooters who cannot attend the trade-only SHOT Show. Outdoor Sportsman Group pledged a portion of the proceeds to our Project ChildSafe firearm safety program and we will be making an announcement on their six-figure donation in the very near future.

Education and Training: SHOT University, Retailer Seminars and Import/Export Sessions: We hosted four Import/Export sessions (January 11-14); 8 SHOT University sessions (January 18-20); and 10 Retailer-specific sessions (January 21-29). Overall, the education was well-received and the sessions can still be accessed by those who registered and paid for them.

Can you tell us about plans for the 2022 SHOT Show? 

We know that our customers and members are anxious to return to a live event and that they will have high expectations. The 2022 SHOT Show will feature a new show floor layout as we are redrawing the show floor to remove some of the irregular aisles that developed over the last decade as a result of exhibit expansions, which will improve traffic flow and allow us to plan for proper social distancing per the currently planned regulations governing live events. With that, we will hold a space draw for all exhibitors for the first time in a decade, so the show floor will have a new, fresh look and feel and we are planning some new activities through the show and new brand activations at Caesars Forum. 

The show is expanding, isn’t it? 

Yes, we’ll be in the Sands Expo and the new Caesars Forum right next door for the first time in 2022. Both venues will be connected with a sky bridge and there is direct access for Caesars Forum via the monorail as well as Harrah’s and Linq hotels. The addition of the Caesars Forum will not only allow us to provide for more opportunities for our exhibitors to have the booth space they desire but gives us both indoor and outdoor space for the first time in over a decade.  As “Outdoor” is core to our industry, we will have the opportunity to deliver a show that will be of even greater value to our community.