January 17, 2022 I by Melissa Ceo

A Conscious Decision

My first experience with The NAMM Show was Summer NAMM 2014. In a fit of logical decision making, I decided the best course of action was to stay over a mile from the convention center. I was five-months pregnant and had to drive in each day, find a parking spot and walk to the convention floor in 90-degree heat. I wandered around the booths, had some brief meetings and went back to my hotel. This was not an auspicious start to my NAMM experience.

Fast-forward to the Winter NAMM Show 2017. My father and I flew to Anaheim and attended loud, crowded booth meetings on the showroom floor. Reeling from NAMM culture shock — Summer NAMM and winter NAMM are two different animals — I dutifully followed my father around to all his meetings and events. If he had tickets to something, we went. If he planned dinner, that’s what we did. My father has attended NAMM conventions for over 30 years, and he approaches them with a meeting-based mindset. The NAMM Show is for placing orders, having meetings with your representatives and attempting to function given the time change. Then, we met with the AIMM Group.

Joining the AIMM Group gave us a reason to attend every convention, every year. So, we booked our flights for Anaheim 2018. Three days before our flight I was doing some late night grocery shopping (aka perusing the ice cream aisle), when my father called. He had a last minute meeting in West Virginia that could not be rescheduled. That meeting fell on the third day of the conference.

On my solo flight out of Pittsburgh, I made a conscious decision. I could attend the AIMM Summit and NAMM show like I always had — attending only the required meetings and education — or I could attempt to make something more of my experience. So, during the AIMM Summit, I crashed countless strangers’ conversations, spoke up at my tables and introduced myself to every person I could. I attended the NAMM YP networking event and mixer and took in its keynote speaker. I did my best to make friends. Was it uncomfortable? 100 percent. I accidentally interrupted several serious business talks and had to sidle away awkwardly. During numerous conversations I relied on asking people questions about themselves — sometimes to the point where it seemed I was an interrogator questioning a suspect. And, as a younger person in the industry, I worried that my questions and discussion topics would seem juvenile.

But, as I opened up to those around me, something happened. I started to make friends. Those awkward conversations became natural. And I started to learn. There is something that happens when you make the choice to network. You start to feel less alone. Our industry is unique, and many of the issues and problems we experience do not have easy answers. But when you have a network to rely on, those problems are less isolating. During COVID-19, my network was imperative to my decision making. Talking through the challenges of beginning band during a pandemic and learning how others handled the situation were instrumental in C. A. House Music’s response.

I write this article from a privileged perspective. I’m able and encouraged to attend every NAMM show. However, this is not possible for all young professionals of the industry. This is why it is imperative to take advantage of NAMM’s virtual Believe in Music Week, scheduled January 18–22, 2022. The virtual nature of the show allows a wide, diverse range of attendees, and the networking opportunities are endless. MI

Melissa Ceo is business development manager at C.A. House Music and vice president of NAMM YP.

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