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28 April 2022

NAB 2022: Power to the people

Faultline is not in the business of people, or individual achievements, or executive hires. We are a technology publication first and foremost. Yet the coming together of humans at NAB Show 2022 was so powerful that we could not avoid conveying our observations from Las Vegas to the rest of the world.

A palpable collective sigh of relief reverberated around the shiny new West Hall, as long-lost colleagues, partners, customers, and even arch nemeses embraced for the first time in years. This was very much a show about refamiliarizing oneself with surroundings, and we soon lost count of how many executives told us how valuable the in-person hysteria had been to business – while also ironically distracting from the job at hand.

The pressure to walk away from a show like NAB with your pockets lined with cash was sidelined, as people reconnected and shared battle-hardened lockdown stories.

This meant that, over five days, we scarcely saw anything new or exciting from a technology point of view (other than the impressive underground Tesla loop connecting the three halls that saved valuable time), but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Disruption was still in abundance, as expressed in our more focused stories from the event.

The main message to deliver is that never before have we witnessed so much elation from a show floor. Physical and mental exhaustion could not mask the sheer thrill of community.

Some headlines will paint a very different picture, focusing on 2022 attendance plunging from the numbers seen at the last in-person NAB in 2019. That is to be fully expected in a post-pandemic world, but simply looking at the numbers would be an unfair reflection of a special event for the industry.

Even the French pavilion was brimming with ear-to-ear grins, although a certain election result on day 1 of the show may have had something to do with that.

We observed entire companies undergo full culture changes before our eyes. Work culture is not a topic that generally makes it to press here at Faultline, but – on this occasion, at this show, after three years of personal deprivation – culture is worth a mention.

Remote working has evidently been a blessing in disguise for a lot of businesses. This has not only accelerated innovation on a technical level, but new ways of working have given flexibility to the people that build the technology itself – rewarding companies and investors accordingly.

People will still debate whether brick and mortar events have a place post-Covid. Sure, there will be fewer shows and many will scale down, adapting with hybrid virtual content, but any doubts about the value of physical comings together in the eyes of the media and entertainment industry were totally trashed at NAB 2022. Invaluable is the answer.

Another small observation is that we spent almost as much time heading up and down elevators at various hotels spread around Las Vegas as we did parading exhibit halls at the convention center itself.

Private suites are clearly preferred by many of the mid-sized vendors over poxy stands – to wine and dine clients with a view while keeping hidden from prying rival eyes – something that is not as easily achieved at IBC.

This is a throwaway piece that of course plays second fiddle to the real important technology stories from NAB (of which we have plenty) – and is likely the first and only time these pages have discussed people over technology. So, lap it up, take it in, bask in it – and then we can all get back to business.