How to Make the Most of Your SHOT Show

Navigating the massive SHOT Show can be challenging, but building a plan and trying to stick with it certainly helps your business.

How to Make the Most of Your SHOT Show

Of course, seeing new products and talking to manufacturers is a major draw of the show.

Attending the annual Shooting, Hunting & Outdoor Trade Show is a fun, challenging, frustrating, memorable and beautiful combination of travel, hotels and the non-stop sensory overload of Las Vegas. Better known as the SHOT Show, or just SHOT, as in “Are you going to SHOT this year?”, the four days of our industry’s biggest trade gathering along with any pre-or post-show events are not to be missed if you can help it.

Why? Because even if you’re not placing orders for the year, as was a primary function of the show in the olden days, it’s a week of learning, networking, rekindling friendships, building new ones and more. You may meet someone new in the industry who opens a door or three that could lead to more sales. You may reconnect with an acquaintance at a new company that has a cool product line. Perhaps you’re interested in learning about better advertising or new procedures about selling firearms. Myriad opportunities exist at SHOT Show each year that many attendees take advantage of but many ignore or don’t know about. The show has more than what’s on the floor.

My first SHOT Show was the 1993 shindig at the Astrodome in Houston. I knew nothing about the show. My feet ached after the first day. My back and feet ached after the second day, thanks to the massive amount of press releases and catalogs I accumulated. The third day, after two nights in a sketchy northwest hotel and not drinking enough water, I felt like a ’possum trying to cross the I-610 loop. That third day, a sign pointing downstairs led me to yet another warren of exhibitor booths and more things to see. Strangers asked about two major outdoor store owners in my town. That opened my eyes to how the industry’s network operated. I returned home exhausted yet excited about this cool show and industry.

Since then, I have about two dozen SHOT Shows under my belt, most of them in Las Vegas. Others include a handful of winter Archery Trade Association and summer ICAST fishing shows. I’m not at every show when the doors open, but I have been to enough to learn a few things. Each has its own rhythm and flow, quirks and head-scratchers, and constants you know you’ll see Every. Single. Time.

SHOT Show is spread across the Venetian Convention and Expo Forum (formerly the Sands) and Caesars Forum. More than 52,000 attended in 2023, which had more than 2,500 exhibitors. Likely, attendance will continue to increase at the industry’s biggest show. It’s also among the top 10 trade shows held in Las Vegas and is slated to be there for at least four more years. 

Here are some great ways to make your SHOT Show visit more successful this year.

Plan Ahead

Start by visiting the SHOT Show website,, and register. Do this now if you haven’t already and avoid any last-minute headaches. It’s easy to register, and you must have your official badge to be able to attend. I’m unsure what voodoo magic might be used by some folks who don’t have a badge, but I’ve never seen a door monitor allow anyone in without one. No badge, no joy. Get registered and make sure anyone on your staff, crew, team or band of merry souls who is attending is registered.

With that done, download the SHOT Show app for your phone. The app is easy to use and quite helpful to quickly find booth numbers. If you’re accustomed to knowing a certain booth is near a specific sign, escalators or other landmark, remember that it could’ve moved. The app can help you find it in a snap. It also has other information about the show, SHOT University sessions and more. Should you prefer a paper map, those will be available at the show.

Another plus with the app is it can help you compile a list of which exhibitors you want to visit. You can then cross-reference those on the map. Which ones are close? Which are further away? Can you create a connect-the-dots schedule so you’re not going from room to room? Even after many years of attending the show, I still make a schedule. Having a plan, booth numbers and an idea of “these five are within these aisles” was and still is incredibly helpful.

Productive Meetings

Schedule meetings in advance as much as you’re able. Make the most of your time in the meeting once you’re there. If you’re seeking new ideas or thoughts about trends, be straightforward and ask about those. If you need to shift gears with your product selection, check into top sellers and prospective hot sellers. Be sure to ask about whether your rep groups still are handling specific accounts or if anything has changed or may change. 

Have any information for your store or site to present if asked, including business cards or E-contacts on your phone. Fumbling around for anything kills time. Take notes, either on pad and paper (be sure to have those) or on your phone. Get to the point about your needs and any questions, and keep the meeting short and sweet. You’ll be able to get to your next one and the person you’re visiting with appreciate it.

Have Goals & Meet Them

It’s easy to get distracted at SHOT Show, on or off the floor. An early breakfast meeting for waffles and coffee might digress into a long conversation if someone else shows up. Then you’re rushed, or miss a meeting, and your daily plan might become a mess. Or, a late-night hoodoo with friends stretches into early morning. A shiny thing in a booth catches your attention and lures you in. Almost anything in Las Vegas can be a distraction.

Stay focused! You may be there only a day or all week, but stick to your plan on and off the floor. Try to make your hotel and dining routines about as relaxed and typical as possible. Eating and drinking wildly can create situations you want to avoid. You don’t have to be bland, but don’t go “What happens in Vegas” wild. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, wear comfortable shoes (no one cares if you’re not wearing dress shoes) and take time to decompress during the day for 15 or 20 minutes. A short break helps, especially if you can find a semi-quiet spot. When you return to your hotel room, enjoy the solitude.

On the floor, stick with your plan and schedule as closely as possible. Set up meetings for the first or second day, if you’re there all week, and get those done. By the third or final day, some contacts may be gone or completely booked. Schedule with them early, if possible. If you want to cruise and look around, do that after your meetings are completed. Make notes during the first days if you plan to do this: “Cool backpacks, Booth 123ABC” and then drop by when you have time.

Seminar Sessions

Make your show better by attending the NSSF’s SHOT University sessions. These daily meetings cover a range of topics from workplace development to regulations and more. Perhaps you’re interested in marketing and how to improve public knowledge of your business or product. Experts will provide basic, or advanced, information that can help in myriad ways. Session seating is limited and fees are required for NSSF members ($40) and non-members ($75). It’s a plus to be an NSSF member if you’re not already one, simply for these savings. One other bonus for attending is a getting nice break from the buzz of the show floor.

After-Hours Fun

What’s a trip to Las Vegas without a great meal or night out with friends? The city has an incredible variety of restaurants, bars, pubs and entertainment venues. From steaks to Thai, glitzy or subdued, wildly crazy or laid back, you can find it all.

When the show is over each day, you may have the opportunity to go out to a dinner, party or other gathering. It’s great to take advantage of these, but remember, you’re representing your company or business and are in town for work. It may be fun work, but it’s still job-related. Be smart and don’t go too wild. The alarm will buzz the next morning for your day’s visit to the floor, and you want to be on top of your game.

Follow Up at Home

Great show? Great meetings? Be sure to let everyone you met know that by following up once you get home. It’s a great way to let them know you appreciated their time, information and assistance. It also keeps your name and business in the mind of those you met with at the show. It shows professionalism and courtesy, and both of those still matter.

Carve out some time when you return to go through all of your notes, business cards or other information. Send an email of thanks or make a phone call, or both. Be sure to stay in touch throughout the year, too, even if it’s merely a “Hey, just checking in to say hello” email or call.  

SHOT is all about meetings. Schedule as many of them in advance as you can, and don't count on being able to just drop in on people you want to speak with.
SHOT is all about meetings. Schedule as many of them in advance as you can, and don't count on being able to just drop in on people you want to speak with.

Sidebar: SHOT Show Seminars Offer Great Insights

What will you find when attending a SHOT University course at SHOT Show? Experts who will provide solid information about a range of topics that can help your business grow and thrive.

The NSSF says its daily sessions provide attendees the chance to “hone management skills for today’s highly competitive and regulated marketplace.” These sessions have been held for years, improving with each show and evolving with the times and regulations. Some of the topics to be covered include:

— Customer communications — Used firearms

— Attracting and working with new shooters

— The latest with the ATF and NICS

— Marketing

— Workforce development

— Range compliance

— Business operations

Each SHOT University session has an enrollment fee. Visit to find out more about these and other business opportunities at the show.

Photos by Luke Laggis


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