• Grace Novak

My First NAB Experience and 4 Lessons I Learned

A large crowd of people at the NAB show floor at the South Hall in front of the BlackMagic booth.
The NAB show floor at the South Hall on opening day

I’ve been working as an editor while also earning my MFA for the past three years in New York and had heard of NAB, but not had a chance to go until this year. A couple of some editing friends were going, but I don’t exactly have the funds to drop on a cross-country flight and trip unfortunately at the moment. I knew about the Blue Coller Post Collective’s PDAP program, but didn’t think I’d qualify. After doing some more research I decided to go for it and next thing I knew, I was flying to Las Vegas in April! I felt so lucky and grateful for the opportunity to get to attend NAB.

If you’re not totally aware what NAB is then it can essentially be boiled down to an annual conference where both filmmakers and others involved in broadcasting meet to exchange business cards, make deals and play with fun toys! Toys being very expensive lighting equipment obviously. For an editor like myself, it’s a good resource to stay up to date on the industry, check out the new tech out there, and meet other post people like myself.

Grace Novak and Kirsten McNary look interested at a computer screen.
Yes, this is posed.

NAB was an amazing experience, but also one that was extremely overwhelming. NAB is such a huge event with so much to see and do, it was easy for me to get a little burnt out by the time late afternoon rolled around. I definitely learned a few things about myself and how I’d go into a little bit differently the next time I go (because of course, I’ll be back). Here are a few of those lessons:

1. Do what’s right for you

This is still a lesson I’m learning in general, but it especially applies to trips like this. With so much going on at NAB and in Vegas, it can be hard to pick and choose how you spend your time and with whom, but I realized going with my gut and learning how far to push myself out of my comfort zone are important factors to consider in this.

I’m not the kind of person who feels comfortable in a large group of people normally, so it IS important for me to push myself into those situations, which are hard to avoid at NAB, but it’s ALSO good for me to play to my strengths when I’ve run out of that energy. Instead of a big party at the Marquee, I found it both more appealing and still useful to spend time in a smaller group getting a late dessert at a cafe instead. For me, it’s about finding a balance between what you know is a good way to spend your time at a conference that’s all about networking and focusing on developing your career and what you know you’ll enjoy doing as well.

2. Don’t be afraid to go back to your hotel room and NAP

Speaking of doing what’s right for you, sometimes what’s right is to spend an hour completely unconscious on a hotel bed! NAB is big, if you haven’t gotten that message from this already, and within hours your feet, head and shins will be crying out for respite. I live in New York so it’s not like I don’t...walk, but even I needed a break at some point. It’s hard to avoid FOMO, which is another thing I learned at an event such a this, but you have to remember that breaks are so necessary to keep it going long into the evening if you want to hit up those NAB parties (because there are many).

3. Plan, but also be flexible

If you know me, you know I’m the world’s biggest planner who can’t stop planning. Used responsibly, planning is great and definitely recommended for NAB, but not only will there be too much to do, even the plans that you painstakingly (who am I kidding, I live to make plans) put together a week or so beforehand will fall through. Either you’ll need sustenance (getting to that soon), or you’ll end up meeting someone super interesting that you’ll want to keep talking to and miss a panel for, or you decide that 15 minute walk from South to North hall just isn’t worth it when happy hour starts pretty soon where you are. Something will happen and you have to let it be ok for plans to change because they will. Whatever you end up doing, as long as you’re striking that balance I mentioned earlier, I promise it’s probably a good use of your time.


Lastly, here’s the most IMPORTANT LESSON that I even got a hot tip about before I got there and foolishly ignored. There’s a Whole Foods pretty close to the airport which you’ll want to visit if you don’t want to eat mostly overpriced, fried and barely edible food for the next 4 or so days. Just go, get some nice snacks and stash them in your bag and hotel room. You’ll thank me later. The convention center has...what you’d normally expect from a convention center. The food trucks in the outside garden area are marginally better. Dinner you can take or leave what’s on the strip and in the hotels. Some of it’s pretty good (I had a good burger from LVB Burgers and Bar to even get a little specific for you) and some of it’s Guy Fieri (no hate to Guy Fieri just not all of us want to eat at Guy Fieri’s). For breakfast and much needed protein on the show floor, you’ll want to prepare and bring outside food for. I’m pretty sensitive foodwise so I had a headache pretty much from Day 1 and on because of ignoring this I know! And you do too.


The PDAP recipients of 2019 at NAB.
Me and the other PDAP recipients from all over the USA!

So that’s NAB and a note for me for next year before I (hopefully) go again! If you can benefit from these lessons too, I hope you do. NAB is a an absolutely worthwhile event to attend if you have the means to do so and work as a filmmaker. Maybe I’ll even see you there. I’ll be in the South Hall most likely (that’s where all the post-production related fun is). And if you’re like me and can’t afford something like NAB, absolutely check out BCPC PDAP program. They help out people in post-production go to events all over the country. You won’t regret it!