January…presumably the busiest month of the year for those of us that are immersed into the firearms industry. End or beginning of the year book audits if you have a Federal Firearms License (FFL), Content run sheets for those of us that run around in the media side of the industry, booth construction and the logistics behind it; if you are a manufacturer [or work for one] and finally…Show season…that dreaded part of the year that anyone who has been in business long enough loathes. Regardless of what roll you play within the industry, this time of year sucks!
If anyone reading this is anything like me from previous show seasons; your emotions are mixed and your planners look like damned sketch pad for an ADD poet! Although it is nice to catch up with friends within the industry and make new ones, contrary to popular belief SHOT show is not a 6-day debauchery filled excursion…just because it is in Las Vegas. Yes, it is an opportunity to let your hair down, but for those that go because we must and as our business depends on it, you can get lost in the parties and find yourself unproductive if you’re not careful. For this week’s Double Shot we see it necessary to throw some do’s and don’ts if this is your first SHOT…or if you consistently find yourself unproductive in years try out these pro tips and see if this year doesn’t wield better deliverables.
Have a plan before arriving, and execute it
The absolute worst thing you can do is check into your hotel room for SHOT without some sort of plan. Set clear sighted and attainable goals while you’re there; pick a list of manufacturers and products and knock those out; take notes, get contact information and move on to your next objective. Again, it’s easy to get lost in the parties, the hobnobbing with people you see on the internet and the endless sea of 5.11 and tactical clothing. Whether you are there representing a company you work for or starting your own, you are only doing those that foot the bill a dis service if you just “show up for the party”. NSSF and SHOT have a planner that is free for download with everything from maps, to booth numbers and fillable schedules to help maximize your time on the floor. Downloading the app is only the beginning but it will put you on the right path.
If you have done your due diligence and made industry contacts, NOW is the time to start reaching out to them and scheduling appointments and meetings. Their schedules fill up quick and time is limited. All of that said, if you DO schedule an appointment with someone, stick to your plan and objective. Time is at a premium for everyone, cliff note that shit and get your contact info to them for further conversation after the SHOW.
Manage your expectations
This is more for the startups and back pack peddlers. DO NOT come to Vegas expecting to throw a pitch dec to everyone willing to listen. There are 70k people that will filter through either before or after you, some of them with better business plans and some without…don’t be the one that says “Hey, I’m Scott and I am a veteran, I have this really cool idea that you should invest in”. Yes that is the sole purpose as to why you’re there, but god dammit, have something tangible to save yourself some embarrassment.
If you are a back-pack peddler, DON’T GET CAUGHT. You will be escorted out of the show faster than you know it. If you come from a military or covert background, use your observation skills that the Government spent so much money teaching you and do it discreetly. If you have a product that you wish to get into the hands of industry people…it better be a damned good one. A few years ago, a small company called Celtic Shield brought a few of their RFID proof wallets to town. They marketed to a few people and now they are the front runners in that space…Be like Celtic Shield!
Lastly, start small…DO NOT approach someone whom you have seen on the internet and give them your product and expect a plug. Like you, they have businesses to run, even if you have a tangible product that melts peoples faces, the last thing anyone wants is to be asked for thousands of dollars worth of marketing strategy for free! However, a primary function to SHOT is for our industry expand and grow. Be professional and don’t be a dick!
Yes, SHOT is in Vegas and there is no speculation as to the venue changing for quite some time…Do you think this happened by chance? FUCK NO it didn’t. Because you are there for the largest convention in our industry, it does not make you special. There are other conventions immediately before and after we all leave (specifically the Porn convention which we will hit on later under the DON’T BE A DOUCHE section). We as gun people are more than likely alpha to some of the other attendees at other conventions but we are still attending a convention which means money for businesses and lots of it…they don’t give a shit if you’re established or not, if your card goes through, you’re a valuable asset. Hotels will roll out the red carpet, Cabbies will take you around your elbow to get to your asshole via your knee cap, all with one objective in mind…MONEY. Be smart about how you spend, and don’t expect everyone to foot your bill. Always offer to pay if you’re invited to a dinner and don’t expect anything for free.
DON’T BE A DOUCHE (Arguably the most important out of any of this)
This section could get a bit long winded as every year it seems as if someone is going for the douche of the year award. What constitutes a douche per sa? Perception really. I cannot reinforce enough that people are there for business and to grow and enhance our Pro 2A lifestyle; not to try to make a quick name for themselves. As social media marketing exploded (which could be your business) it is imperative to the success of anyones brand, don’t be the one who pulls out a smart phone to film at every turn. Regardless of popularity, sometimes people just want to relax and not be on camera. Ask if they mind and then carry on with whatever you had in mind.
Holy cow, clothing. As you pack your suitcase prior to jumping on a plane keep in mind that there are literally 12.5 miles of aisles that are meant to be perused. Tactical clothing is NOT the most preferred method of dress while you are there; your feet will be worthless by day 2 and the amount of medicated goldbond powder that is needed will surely trump the compliments that you will get for your tacticool gittyup. Dress comfortably, practically and above all, PROFESSIONALLY. Especially if you’re there to drum up business. Veterans…We love each one of you…but if you are looking to start a business and you take advantage of SHOT in the method that was intended, wearing a “kill them all type” shirt does nothing for ya.
Ladies, it’s January and it gets chilly in vegas at night…dress conservatively…if you feel the need to wear the skimpiest outfit you own, before you step off to the show look in the mirror and ask yourself if you your father would approve knowing you’re going to be walking around with a bunch of dudes. In case you’re wondering chopping up a cammie blouse makes you look like a Halloween costume gone horribly wrong…why would you destroy good Multicam anyway?
You will run across someone whom you have seen online or on Television; from UFC champions to big screen actors and everyone in between they will be there and you more than likely will have beer or two with them. Please, spare yourself that embarrassment we talked about and do not try to solidify a spot on their Facebook live or social media videos by doing something stupid. If the opportunity arises and you happen to be broadcasted don’t ask for money, or plugs…you won’t get them. That also works in reverse…Do not try to spontaneously go live on facebook just because you are engaged into a conversation with someone well known. That could very well be the king of all douche moves!
Guys…they are there working! Yes, they have huge boobs and are probably some of the most beautiful women you have ever seen; we’re not young Marines at a strip club anymore…they have seen and heard it all. They will be nice to you, they will engage in conversation but if you expect to meet them for drinks later, you’re smoking crack. They are there to draw you in and those working the booths are there to explain and sell product after the show. It’s a science that has worked for hundreds of years…Just because you have multicam on and have a big beard doesn’t make you different from any other target demo.
Regardless of your background…always remember that there will be someone there that has seen more, done more and killed more people than the plague. We are not down playing anyone’s background or experiences but, again; there are 12 miles of vedors and probably double that in cock running around the convention center, don’t be that guy that introduces himself with a brief synopsis of his resume…or a convoluted one at that. Statistics are not on your side should you initiate a dick measuring contest. That said…Don’t be the guy who is so ambiguous with your resume that you insinuate that you are Billy Bad Ass, that’s douchier than telling stories.
We’re talking to everyone here. Girls…you too! We cannot express anymore that SHOT is for business, if you are a holster sniffer and go to SHOT looking for the most tattooed, bearded and operator-esq looking guy there, you will undoubtedly have some luck, but just know that if you have made a “career” by showing cleavage on Instagram, your shit will be touted. Please…for the love of god, study up on gun stuff prior to arriving…that way you can at least fake it till you make it. Women make up somewhere to the tune of 50% of the firearms industry, don’t go full retard. If you are a model, SHOT is a place to make a lot…and I mean A LOT of contacts that will further your career. If you are into shooting, hunting or the outdoors you could do very well for yourself, just don’t think that propositioning someone for a BJ will get you in…it will only result in hurt feelings and looking like an idiot.
Every year the Adult Film Awards are strategically scheduled on the heels of SHOT…coincidence? FUCK NO! Guns and porn…2 things that dudes relate to assumedly better than anything else. Here are the details as we know them…It is typically hosted at the Hard Rock hotel and like SHOT, all the contributors and presenters hang out at the bars at the hotel. Don’t get too excited…were talking C and D listers in that industry; those that you see milling around at the Hard Rock are not the people that cluttered up the hard drive that you named “deployment photography”. We are talking…straight swamp donkey types. How can I make an accurate assessment if I’ve never been right? Well, about 4 years ago we humored the idea and visited the Hard Rock, stayed for about 12 minutes and promptly left. Have you ever been to a jack shack at a local porn shop? The ones conveniently located right off the interstate? If you have, you leave feeling as if you contracted HIV without being directly exposed to it, regardless of how long or short you stayed. (My experience stemmed from high school when a group of my friends ponied up 26 dollars to go inside of said jack shack). You can take this as a warning or insight whichever you choose…I have yet to hear about anyone trolling the Porno convention that yielded anything other than their minds eye aching!
Nothing is For Sale
Before walking through the doors, remember that SHOT is a vendor show and not a consumer show. What this means is its not NRA, or a local gun show that you can pay and walk right there after your background check. Do not expect to bring anything but marketing items home. Pro Tip: Glock usually has the best marketing items and they go quick…if you want stickers, key chains ect. Show up early and don’t be a dick…take as many as necessary but don’t try to pocket stuff to sell at your small-town gun shop…it happens!
Don’t ask for free stuff…just because a company has product at SHOT, it was made for SHOT. Manufacturers product line extensions are typically unveiled during the show and put into production soon after. There is also a wives-tale that if you stay until Friday that companies will give away free guns and and ammo…that is 100% false and illegal, don’t book your flights around freeloading off of the people that make the show and experience happen.
If this is your first show, chances are your post show schedule isn’t full of parties and dinners; that is okay. Don’t be that guy or gal who shows up to a party without an invite. There will be people there vetting invitations and will turn you around at the door without hesitation, there will also be a line of people behind you that will make a huge deal out of it as well. Parties are thrown for industry folks to show gratitude for business done throughout the year and there are hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to ensure the best time possible by manufacturers. When you go to these parties and/or dinners, take advantage of the hospitality, but don’t be the one who gets housed and turns a good time into a shit show!
If you are a douchebag by nature…we get it, you can’t help it, just try as hard as you can to stay humble and professional for the duration of the show! You can go back home on Friday and tell all the stories you want.
If this is your first show, keep in mind that it is January, and people from literally across the planet converge in one spot, at the same time. Much like boot camp, when you introduce 70k people at once there are a plethora of sicknesses that will be floating around. You can expect to bring something home, whether it be a cough, or the full on flu, and if you don’t heed my advise about the porno convention…herpes! There are a few things that will increase your chances of walking away sickness free. We usually bring a few bottles of travel size hand sanitizer and typically find ourselves resupplying before the show ends. We also bring 4 days’ worth of emergen C tablets to drink in the morning and evening before going to bed for a couple hour nap before the madness starts over.
Have a backpack or something to store and transport your swag that is acquired on the show floor. NSSF and SHOT will have bags similar to the ones you can buy at IKEA with a sponsor on the side, but that shit gets heavy and I have seen grabbers fill them up literally to the point of handles breaking off and their free shit spilled all over the place. By the end of day one…you will be over literature and stickers to the point of not caring. lastly…If you spent any time overseas, bring your old badge carrier. Something to business cards in and display your SHOT creds. From the media standpoint I always have a pen and small rite in the rain pad on me for spontaneous interviews and quotes. (Post SHOT douchebaggery article)
Summing It Up
I know, we threw a lot at you if this is your first show, It will be overwhelming, do not expect to see it all…there literally isn’t enough time, which is why it is important to have a plan and stick with it. I suppose you could jog the entire floor and cover all the ground…but at that point are you taking advantage? Don’t obsess over things, take notes and reach out to manufacturers a week or so after the show has wrapped up. Do not expect immediate responses until a week or so after SHOT. Manufacturers just spent 5 days saying the same thing, answering the same questions and showing the same product; you cannot expect them to remember everyone and every conversation. Let the situation develop and go from there. We hope to see you at the show. If you see any of us from BRCC or The BrassTacs on the floor stop us and say hey! Enjoy your time in Vegas and have a great Show!!!