With the 38th SHOT Show now in the archives, I’d like to take a moment before a very busy and challenging year kicks into high gear and thank everyone who attended the 2016 SHOT Show.  From exhibitors, media members and retail buyers to wholesalers, PR and advertising professionals, each and every one of the more than 64,000 in attendance are responsible for the tremendous success we enjoyed.

The high points are almost too many to list, but a few stand out above the others. The first that comes to mind was the all-new NEXT Pavilion. By moving our non-profit booths near the entrance to the lower level, where they benefited from improved foot traffic, we opened up the expansive foyer of the third floor to provide space for more than 100 vendors on the waiting list for space on the main exhibit floor. We did this because it is vital to the success of our industry to inject it with new faces, new products and new technology. And oh what a success it was. Located across from the NSSF Member’s Lounge and the Press Room, the foot traffic was extraordinary—and yet despite the crowd, what visitors to these new vendors told us they got from the new arrangement was an exceptional, one-on-one interaction with people and products they needed to connect with, something that can be hard to accomplish on the busy show floor. Feedback from the vendors was just as positive, and I can tell you now that we’re looking toward expanding the NEXT Pavilion in 2017.

SHOT Show TV was another hit. By moving the production in-house and lining up a fresh daily broadcast in hotels across the city, we were better able to provide the information show attendees needed. Many attendees and exhibitors alike told us that they were able to adjust their schedules to find booth, NSSF and general show and event information they were looking for, simply because they’d caught the TV show in their hotel room while they were getting ready in the morning.

We heard similar feedback about the once-again expanded New Product Center and the Video Spotlights, as well as the increased social media announcements we initiated for Retailer Seminars, celebrity appearances and press conferences. Now, it’s one thing to provide show coverage, but it’s more important to provide useful coverage.

The annual State of the Industry Dinner was a huge success. The sell-out crowd of more than 2,200 appreciated the succinctness of NSSF President Steve Sanetti’s evening address and laughed heartily at the always original comedy of Jeff Foxworthy—but they also appreciated the shorter format of the event, something we coordinated in response to a number of recent requests by members who want to attend this important event but who also still want to have some evening left over to relax with friends and regroup for the next day.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump appearing at the Outdoor Sportsman awards certainly added pizzazz to an already stellar night of glamour highlighting the best in craft awards of today’s outdoor television programming, while those on the main show floor were treated to face time and autograph signings with Marcus Luttrell, Kyle Lamb, Julie Golob, Big & Rich, the Duck Commanders, Brittany Boddington, Will Primos, Doug Koenig and host of other famous names. Some of those names also showed up to the ladies-only Meet & Mingle event at the Bonnier Sportsmen’s Lounge Thursday afternoon. New to SHOT Show and organized by Women Outdoors News publisher Barbara Baird and a host of other notable women in the industry such as Judy Rhodes and Mia Anstine, the coffee-and-tea gathering had a stellar turnout, with many of the women in attendance remarking that it was the first time they’d had a chance to connect face-to-face with the names they’ve known only through work and social media.

But beyond the famous names, beyond the new features, nothing resonated with me and with all the NSSF staff more than the attitude from everyone we talked to.

“Positive energy,” “Great vibe,” “Very upbeat” and other phrases like them were what we heard over and over again no matter who we asked. And the great attitude wasn’t just about the bevy of new products, it was about the industry in general. From participation in the shooting sports to retail sales to wildlife conservation and even improved availability of .22 LR ammunition, it seems everyone is looking forward to an exceptional year in 2016.

In addition to the attendees and exhibitors who made this year’s SHOT Show the tremendous success that it was, I’d like to also thank ConvExx, Freeman and CSG Creative for their exceptional contributions, as well as the professionals at the Venetian/Palazzo and the Sands Expo Center.  Working collaboratively with them provides a fresh look and feel to our show. That’s how you keep a show like this alive and thriving, that’s how you help us promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports.


Chris Dolnack is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @ChrisDolnack.