The 2018 SHOT Show was full of excitement, product releases and plenty of insider news on the show floor. But did you know that up on the quiet Level 4 of the Sands Expo Center several hundred firearms dealers and business owners were hard at work getting a first-class education on how to improve their business operations, increase their organizational value and expand their outreach and offerings to consumers near and far? And did you know that as an attendee of SHOT Show you had access to it?

Our annual SHOT Show University, which takes place the day before the SHOT Show exhibit halls open, is a full day of education attended by store managers, owners and the executive staff of some of the smallest to largest retail organizations in our industry. All attend with the desire to bring back fresh perspective and insight on new and emerging concepts for their businesses, as well as brush up on some of the cornerstone components of operating an FFL such as store security and ATF compliance. With more than 18 courses going on throughout the day and two keynote speakers at this year’s University, we can’t cover all the ground you missed at SSU, but following are some of the highlights.

The day started with a course that was of especially high interest this year, Doug VanderWoude’s presentation “New Range Technologies.” Doug’s talk was an hour-long, interactive seminar providing those who participated with comprehensive ideas on how to get started with a new range, improve an existing range and actionable steps for improvement anyone could implement upon returning home from the show.

Another popular class was Frank Furness’s talk on “New Media Marketing.” Not only did Furness discuss how to utilize social media to drive consumers to the content you spend so much time developing for your website, he brought along several pieces of affordable technology with which he trained class participants to use to capture and share sought-after material frequently viewed online like product reviews, training and education and the always popular torture-testing videos. Furness advised not to try and sell via social media but to use these short bursts of messaging to grow interest in your brand and do the selling on your website and in your store.

For FFLs in the startup stage, newly opened FFLs and new-hires to established retailers, a full learning track of four classes was dedicated to an in-depth review of ATF compliance topics such as the 4473 process, NFA rules and regulations and A&D record keeping. And for those more veteran retailers, the Master’s learning track offered discussions on influence leadership and maintaining relevancy — and profits — in today’s ever-shifting retail world.

This year’s SSU wrapped up with an inspiring and emotional speech from John O’Leary. The telling of his life experiences and lessons learned made for a keynote speech that will not soon be forgotten. O’Leary was also kind enough to stick around for at least an hour after his talk to sign copies of his New York Times Bestselling book, “On Fire,” which was provided to all those who attended the day’s training.

Beginning the first day the show opens and spanning Tuesday through Thursday of SHOT Week, our Retailer Seminars were jam-packed with fantastic and engaging speakers, critical information and fresh business strategies. The highlight of the week was our ever-popular Town Hall Meeting, led by an expert panel of professionals from both the ATF and FBI/NICS. Staff from these agencies take the opportunity at each SHOT Show to share critical data from the past year and projections for the next year. Their lengthy Q&A session at the end sees robust participation.

Black Guns Matter - Maj Toure - Retailer Seminar

Maj Toure founder of Black Guns Matter speaking at the 2018 Retailer Seminar “Engaging Urban Communities in the 2nd Amendment Fight.”

Among other Retailer Seminar speakers, NSSF’s own Jim Curcuruto, Director, Research and Market Development, spent over an hour guiding attendees through the wide variety of research reports that NSSF produces, providing a synopsis of how each report can be utilized to make smarter, more profitable business decisions. And in another wildly popular session speaker Maj Toure, founder of the Black Guns Matter movement, wowed the audience with his interactive session on engaging the urban community in the 2nd Amendment fight — indeed, he may have taken the cake as the most impactful seminar of the week. His welcome words enlightened those in attendance to the misinformation and lack of information in urban communities surrounding firearms safety and rights, and provided strategies and tactics on how to engage this sector of Americans. Even after Toure’s presentation was over, dozens of class participants poured into the hallway to keep the conversation going, all hoping to have more success in serving a community they weren’t sure how to reach only an hour prior.

NSSF staff received a wealth of positive feedback and suggestions from those attending our SHOT Show University and Retailer Seminars. But one point all the participants agreed upon was that every moment spent in these courses was time well spent. If you haven’t attended a SHOT Show University or Retailer Seminar in the past I strongly encourage you to include one, two or several of these courses in your plans for the 2019 SHOT Show, so mark your calendars now.

The Retailer Services team at NSSF is already at work putting together next year’s programs. Have suggestions for topics you’d like to see covered or speakers you’d think would be valuable to our program? Email me at Together we can make next year’s educational offerings the best yet!