By: Serena Juchnowski

Huge. If anyone asked me to describe the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in one word, that is the first that comes to mind. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (the owner and sponsor of the show), SHOT includes nearly 13 miles of aisles with more than 2,000 exhibitors. 2020 marks the 42nd SHOT Show, the 22nd held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Attendees can look forward to new products, seminars, networking not found anywhere else, as well as anything and everything related to the outdoors in one place. SHOT is a trade show, limited to members of the industry and media: it is not open to the public. 2020’s SHOT week starts off Sunday, January 19 with the NSSF/Honored American Veterans Afield Golf Classic though most recognize Industry Day at the Range as the first part of the show. The official show runs from Tuesday, January 21 through Friday, January 24. When I first started researching the SHOT Show before attending for the first time, I found very similar information. Luckily I have great mentors and people to look to for advice who helped me navigate my first show who offered great advice – I also learned a considerable amount on my own.

Expect to be overwhelmed.

This sounds counterintuitive, but if you have an expectation in your mind, it can be easier to handle. I was warned last year, but was so overstimulated I don’t know that I had the chance to be nervous. Regardless, go in with a positive attitude and take time to explore – to understand what the SHOT Show and outdoor industry means. Some booths are works of art and it is a shame they are displayed for so short a time. Take the time to do the following: Look at the number of companies and products at the show, think about all of the employees and work that goes into making each operation run, think about the families – I never knew the outdoor industry had such a large impact on so many lives.

Be open to opportunity. Be flexible!
You never know who you will meet. Last year, I met many well-known people in the industry from icons, to editors, to writers and manufacturers. Take the opportunity to meet as many people as you can. If someone offers to introduce you to others – let them! Events are especially important. I have also heard rumors about many after-hours parties sponsored by companies and organizations but have only ever been invited to one.

Have a plan.
Use the SHOT Show app to navigate and leave time to get to meetings. If you wear glasses bring them if you need them to read the signage hanging from the ceiling. Last year I had the opportunity to contact everyone I thought I wanted to meet and scheduled meetings. SHOT was a crash course in how to communicate and to see how people in the industry interact and work together. Life sometimes gets in the way and it is very hard if not impossible to contact everyone on a regular basis. This year I am setting up some meetings but leaving more time to explore and learn more about what all the industry has to offer as well as make sure that I can report back to my audience on what interests me and what I think will interest them.

Take care of yourself.
You must make time to eat. I learned this lesson the hard way. It is easy to get caught up in meetings and events and to not eat lunch or to snack on things that don’t fuel your body. Walking through the aisles, navigating the floor, and socializing takes a toll. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a bag with anything you may need. Be careful not to pack it too heavily or your back will be sore.

Try not to get sick!
Not to ruin the excitement, but nearly 60,000 people attend the show from all over the world. As an already germ-conscious person, no one has to tell me twice to come prepared – I am just glad it’s not just me. Wash your hands often and well, carry hand sanitizer to use after every meeting, and get a good night’s rest. I have heard from several people that a humidifier can greatly help those who are unused to arid environments. While traveling to and from the show wipe down airplane trays and avoid reading the magazines tucked inside the seat backs.

Short Packing List:

  • Comfortable Shoes
  • Hand Sanitizer/Wipes
  • Portable Phone Charger
  • SHOT Show App/Phone
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Business Cards (lots!)
  • Pencil/Pen and Paper
  • Bag to carry
  • Glasses if you wear them

What am I looking forward to?
Most of all – the people. I discovered last year that SHOT Show is in many ways an enormous reunion. Many people don’t see one other except for at the SHOT Show. I was only able to enjoy the feeling on a small scale, as I did not know many people in the industry. I am excited to see the people again who I met last year and to make new connections.

As stated earlier, I did not schedule as many meetings this year but am hoping to find opportunity. This does not mean that I expect things to happen without hard work. I am looking forward to attending my first SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range and to asking questions, to learning, and to making connections that will help me find my way and my place in the industry. I am currently a college student quickly approaching graduation and though it means some extra work – I know that attending SHOT is very important to me. It keeps me going and seeing the industry at work – it further fuels my passion for the outdoors.

If there is something specific you would like to see from me at the SHOT Show please let me and Gunpowder Magazine know!

Serena Juchnowski is a high power service rifle competitor and regular contributor to Junior Shooters magazine, writing from Ohio. Contact her at [email protected].