NAB 2022: Expectations vs. reality

Posted By Heath Firestone on May 03, 2022 11:44 am | Permalink
To find out, you may want to ready my "What to Expect at NAB 2022" blog post, here.

It was an unusual year for NAB, and for all the ways it was different, there were many things that felt just like any other NAB, which is a good thing, I think we all need some semblance of as I heard someone refer to it "The Before Time." So, what was it like?

Well, one change unrelated to the pandemic, is that NAB started on Sunday rather than Monday, which actually threw me off quite a bit, because I often plan on what I am doing based on where we are on the show schedule, and kept thinking Monday was Day One, not Day Two and I was thrown off by the fact that Tuesday was the last full day, not Wednesday. This might not seem like it would matter, but it does, and I'll explain. The first day of the show always seems frantic, trying to get a lay of the land, find out what the most important announcements are, and just getting into the expo groove, but it always seems like the busiest day to me. By Day Three, things seem to thin out a bit, and there aren't so many people crowding the booths that you can't talk to the exhibitors about the products you have interest in, and Day Four is the half day, where it's much thinner, and exhibitors start breaking down. They aren't allowed to really break down until 2PM, but they have started packing things and are usually focused on getting out of there and back to their families and lives.

There were a lot of other changes too. It definitely took some getting used to the new layout. After enough NAB's, you tend to get really familiar with the layout and how to get from one hall to another in relation to various booths. I constantly found myself disoriented, because my brain was still thinking I was in the Lower South Hall, not the North Hall, and I couldn't go out the side doors across the outdoor lot to Central Hall. So I had to pay a lot more attention to the sign numbers and NAB App Map, to re-orientate myself.

As far as how many people were there? I was told to expect around 40,000, but it was hard to say from just looking around. I heard somebody say 35,000. But with fewer booths, and everything switched around, it was hard to get an accurate comparison to other years, Honestly it didn't seem much different from past years, but with fewer exhibitors, and the different layout, all I could say is it was still busy, it was still loud, and booths were still often crowded. While writing this, the official number came out, as 52,000. I'd believe that, and it is a lot more than they were expecting.

What was pretty much universal, was the high energy level. People were both excited and relieved to have an NAB again. And for exhibitors, they said they felt like they were covering three years worth of announcements instead of one. Tom Bergeron of Panasonic told me it was weird because a lot of people don't know about products they released two years ago, and are actually on version 2 of, by the time people are first learning about it.

With regard to masks, regardless of where you stand on the topic, there are pro's and cons. I personally did not plan on attending NAB if masks were required simply because NAB is loud, and it can be very difficult to hear people normally, but at least they aren't muffled, and you can see their lips which helps with lip reading (even if you don't realize that you do it), and it allows you to pick up on the non-verbal communication that is conveyed by things like expressions and micro-expressions. They are critical for advanced communication, and masks severely inhibit communication. I thought that a masked NAB would defeat a lot of the face to face communication that I go to NAB for. I also thought the loudness of NAB with muffled conversations would be torturous.

In actual practice, I would say maybe 5%-10% of people were masked, but I could be underestimating. It was difficult to communicate with masked people. One guy told me they went to a conference in July with strict mask rules, and he said there was just a loud drone of sound, and you couldn't make out the muffled voice of the person you were talking to, and so even though they were initially strictly enforcing it, half way through the conference everyone just took off their masks to they could actually communicate. I can say that there seemed to be fewer masks as the show went on, and even one guy who I overheard lamenting the lack of masks, I saw again on day three, and he was no longer wearing a mask, so either he gave up trying to communicate with a mask, or got tired of not being able to breathe. I can't really say, but I was certainly relieved to have some semblance of normality.

There were a lot of big booths missing from the show floor, and some booths were just scaled down, but there was still a lot to see. I had planned on taking the Tesla Tunnel to the west hall, but never made it to the West Hall, but I know Marc got a chance to get over there via a Tesla. I did get a chance to ride the Tron inspired Motorcycle on Vu and MRMC's virtual production stage, which you can watch and find more about in my blog post about it here.

It was really nice seeing people again, making new connections, and reconnecting with old friends and colleagues. Honestly it was one of the most pre-pandemic like experiences I have had since Covid hit. I really think we all needed this. I even heard multiple people say they were surprised how emotional seeing people again was. A lot of us depend on NAB to stay connected with our colleagues and friends. All I can say, is it was a good NAB, and I'm glad it is back.

So was I right? I think I was pretty close. I spent about equal time in the North and Central Halls, got lots of steps in, wore out the wheels on the carry-on bag I decided to lug my gear around in, and that sort of thing. But as weird as the new layout and missing vendors was, it was actually comfortingly normal, just reconnecting with people and meeting new ones, and learning about new technologies and products. It was a good NAB.