Business Events, Memories and Lessons Learned at the Nassau Coliseum
Earlier this week I attended the Billy Joel concert that marked the final show at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island, New York. The show was both memorable and special. As a Billy Joel fan for decades, this was the first time I have seen him live in concert; I hope it is not the last. It was strange to walk into the venue that I have been to well over 100 times for concerts, games, business events and trade and consumer shows. Almost all the signage outside and within the area was gone. The crowd walking in was upbeat and we all knew that this would be a memorable evening.
Going to the Coliseum brought back over 30 years of memories of events I attended or promoted there. Corbett Public Relations specializes in securing publicity for clients sponsoring large events. Over the years, we have worked with an eclectic group of clients that held events at the Nassau Coliseum, including multiple home and consumer shows that featured all types of home renovation, remodeling and products and services companies. We also promoted the Nassau Coliseum Fair for several years, an event held in the parking lot.
The Fall and Spring Home Shows were very different from each other and interesting events. They included between 200 and 350 exhibitors, several seminars and contests sponsored by local radio stations. Shows ran for three days; Friday through Sunday. Shows were fun to be a part of for several reasons. During the time we promoted the home shows, television home makeover programs were very popular with consumers. You may remember the Discovery Channel programs While You Were Out and Trading Spaces. We were fortunate to have many of the show designers and carpenters as guests at these home shows. Leslie Segrete, Andrew Dan Jumbo and Frank Bileck were three “celebrities” that were great to work with; they were excellent educators and promoters. In the past I have written stories about working with celebrities; I can say that these three people were “good” to work with, not among the bad or the ugly. They cooperated with me to do media interviews, including early morning live remotes that started at 5 a.m. They carried show messages well and were friendly with audiences.
The exhibitors at the home shows, for the most part, were local businesses mixed with some national product vendors. It was enlightening and inspiring to work with local business owners seeking to grow their companies. We looked for new products and services to promote and we helped to educate exhibitors on how to promote themselves and attract attention. There are do’s and don’ts in the trade show business and we found that new exhibitors often needed assistance. The management company and my firm provided training and support. We also provided media training for exhibitors who were lucky enough to be part of our live or recorded television segments.
We also worked with local trade groups to produce a quality insert that was published and included in the Sunday edition of Newsday. Two home shows each year for several years was a lot of work, but the energy of working with entrepreneurs at the Nassau Coliseum was rewarding.
We secured dozens of live and recorded media interviews before and during shows. This publicity attracted attendance and provided show exhibitors with valuable media coverage. When exhibiting at a show, it’s always good to communicate with the show’s PR team to let them know about new products and services and special promotions. I know from experience that they want to be given this information; it helps them and the exhibitors get the most marketing value out the show.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the convention space will be revamped. This was needed at the Coliseum back when we did the shows and is sorely needed now to enhance economic development in the region. The old convention venue was actually an underground parking facility and was used to store equipment and even circus animals when it wasn’t used for trade or other shows. I can tell you it is not a good idea to have a trade show in the same space where just a few days before, elephants, camels and horses were being stabled.
From the marketing and event perspective, what I gained was a keen understanding of the logistics of a venue like the Nassau Coliseum and the rules. There were strict rules on hours of access, labor and media access; these rules became challenges. Thankfully, I was aware of most of them and was able to plan to ensure that media crews would be granted access and I knew when labor was required. It’s important to communicate with event production companies and venues well in advance. Doing this and knowing the rules and schedules is vital. We had one Home Show that was delayed due to a hurricane and another by snow. Exhibitors who followed the schedule and the rules got in, but those who did not missed a day of valuable exhibit time.
The Nassau Coliseum Fair was an enjoyable event we publicized. For over two decades my firm has promoted large fairs, concerts and balloon festivals. More than one million people have attended the events that we have promoted. In July I wrote about what it’s like to do live morning TV. One memory related to the Nassau Coliseum Fair stands out. This particular fair took place in July when we were experiencing a heat wave and the event was in the parking lot, which didn’t help. We scheduled a live morning remote with the WPIX 11 Morning News.
Over the years I have done over 100 live mornings with WPIX and this wasn’t going to be any different, or so I thought. I arrived at about 5 a.m. The TV crew and truck were expected at 5:30 a.m. I had several performers set up for high wire performances and acrobatics. At 6 a.m. it started to rain very hard. A summer thunderstorm that was not predicted to hit the area materialized and very quickly the parking lot (with only a few drains) was flooded. We were actually in the middle of a flash flood. Thankfully, one of the acts, a family that operated a circus, had a big top and we took refuge. The skies were dark, the thunder roared, but the show went on even though the water level rose and the wind rocked the tent. Of course we checked the tent supports every 10 minutes to make sure we were safe. We changed some performers on the fly, but all the segments were done live under the tent with lights and some improvisation.
Fortunately, I knew that we had access to the big top and that the performers were spirited and I could count on them. We created a great morning with five segments of live and exciting TV coverage. We were a little wet by the end, but the job was done. Ironically, as the TV crew packed up and headed out of the parking lot of the Nassau Coliseum, there was a burst of sunlight starting a great weekend that was warm and dry.
Memories have been made, business opportunities were realized and lessons were learned. The renovation of the Nassau Coliseum will give us a more modern and a bit smaller facility. The area will be developed with new businesses, restaurants, entertainment and an improved exhibition hall. Soon this new venue will be where new memories will be made and new opportunities created.
By Bill Corbett