For many years, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has exhibited at the annual IWA & Outdoor Classics show in Nurnberg, Germany. It is always a productive event for us, but none more so than the 2015 show.
There are many reasons why exhibiting at the IWA & Outdoor Classics is a top priority for us here at NSSF, but perhaps the most important is that it provides us the ability to connect one on one with international buyers, exhibitors and media. These industry professionals have been key to the continued success of our own state-side SHOT Show® and they hold the promise for continued growth as they and our U.S. based members explore the hundreds of opportunities for those on both sides of the pond to do business together.
NSSF’s SHOT Show is the largest trade show of its kind in the world. With more than 1,600 exhibitors showcasing the latest innovations in firearms, ammunition and shooting and hunting-related accessories, in addition to a thriving exhibitors section catering specifically to military and law enforcement applications, the annual SHOT Show attracts more than 60,000 industry professionals from all 50 U.S. states and 100 countries.
With such worldwide appeal, NSSF began working with the U.S. Department of Commerce International Buyer Program (IBP). Introduced at the 2014 SHOT Show, the inaugural IBP had just a half-dozen participating countries, yet it was so successful at connecting those European firms and buyers with their U.S. counterparts that word quickly spread about the program’s value. The 2015 SHOT Show IBP grew to representatives from 20 countries. I don’t have to tell you that’s tremendous growth for a program still in its infancy—and that’s a trend we’re committed to continuing with the 2016 SHOT Show and beyond.
To further help this effort, our partners in Las Vegas have hosted a Las Vegas Hospitality Suite during IWA. Sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority and the Las Vegas Sands and Venetian/Palazzo, the hospitality suite offers buyers and media an opportunity to learn more about the SHOT Show, the exciting city of Las Vegas and the fabulous Sands Expo and Venetian/Palazzo resorts in which the SHOT Show takes place. Hundreds of visitors stop by our stand daily in the American pavilion to inquire about NSSF membership, SHOT Show attendee qualifications and how the International Buyer Program (IBP) works to connect European buyers with U.S. firearms enterprises. Many of these buyers have never heard of the SHOT Show and are overwhelmed with the prospects in which they may encounter in Las Vegas each year. It is this introduction to the SHOT Show that makes us most excited when we are at IWA, and proves the value of face-to-face marketing at trade shows.
There are three components to the IBP. These include the Showtime Program, where U.S.-based show exhibitors can meet one on one with U.S. Department of Commerce industry specialists from our overseas embassies, and the B2B Matchmaking Program that works to promote U.S. firearms businesses and products to foreign delegates throughout the SHOT Show.
The third component to the IBP is the SHOT Show’s International Trade Center. Here, breakfast, lunch and an afternoon reception are held each official show day. Private conference rooms are available for meetings, and hostesses are available to assist with scheduling. There is an emphasis on creature comforts—complimentary WiFi Internet access, full computer setups with printer capabilities, multi-language translators, and other amenities that make traveling abroad easier—as well that of providing privacy and quiet space away from the bustle of the show floor. More central to making the International Trade Center truly productive for our overseas friends, the center offers something to “both sides of the coin.” For international buyers, experts in U.S.-based firearms manufacturers and distributors are on hand to help identify the exhibitors and products that best match those buyers’ needs and arrange introductions. For the exhibitor, trade specialists from the U.S. Department of Commerce help our U.S.-based businesses identify potential new markets and arrange in-person meetings with the buyers attending those markets.
The feedback we’ve received from both overseas attendees and our U.S. exhibitors participating in the IBP program has been nothing short of glowing and that tells us that NSSF is hitting the mark when it comes to providing a return on the often significant investment in time and money it takes to attend our SHOT Show each year, both for our own U.S. exhibitors and member attendees, but especially for those traveling from abroad. If you’ve participated in either of the last two IBP programs, tell us what you received from the experience and elements you’d like to see added to the program. If you’d like to participate in the program for the first time, we’d welcome the opportunity to provide you additional information and add you to our growing list of participants.
Contact Melissa Schilling, NSSF Director, Exhibitions & Conferences, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or me, Chris Dolnack, at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you next year in Las Vegas for the 2016 SHOT Show.
Chris Dolnack is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @ChrisDolnack.