Published On Mar 16, 2016
in Retail Real Estate Industry
In 2006, within the first few months of joining Phillips Edison, the responsibility of coordinating our ICSC Vegas booth was bestowed upon me. [Okay, so it felt a little less like the passing of a torch and more like a losing game of hot-potato, but regardless I was excited for the opportunity.]
What they didn’t tell me at the time was that our so-called “booth” was actually a 4,500-square-foot mini-mobile-office that had 11 meeting rooms, a reception area, and a café. And that we catered 2+ meals a day for the 80+ attendees, and that we hosted 800+ meetings over the course of 2.5 days. Makes my feet hurt just thinking about it.
Often times I look back at my first RECon experience and wonder why or how I wasn’t scared to death. Even in planning the expansion and redesign of our booth that first year and coordinating hundreds of details I still didn’t realize the size and scope of this whole thing. This year there will be more than 36,000 attendees and although any of the industry vets can give you great advice—on networking, deal making, and in general just maximizing the opportunity this arena has to offer—my hope is that these tips from a behind-the-scenes perspective will not only help the first-time planners out there, but provide some valuable insight to everyone attending.
Surround yourself with a trusted, capable team.
DON’T try to handle everything yourself. DO hire an exhibition management company. I survived that first year without exception, with the help of fellow booth ‘staffers’ and the messiah of all exhibit management companies, Journey Communications [shameless plug: they really are the best at what they do, and in my opinion, the most fun to work with!] The final member of the team is my trusty RECon binder, which I’d be lost without. Technology is a wonderful thing until it isn’t, so although I’ve pared WAY down over the years I still bring my paper security blanket with me.
Be good to your feet.
I can’t remember now if anyone [or maybe everyone] told me to wear comfortable shoes that first year, but that was quite literally one of the hardest lessons to learn. Even if you wear heels every single day of your life I urge you to wear comfortable footwear, and DO pack more than one pair because flats or not, eventually whatever shoes you’re wearing, your feet—and your back—WILL hurt. This is a given for anyone attending the convention, but it’s especially true for booth staff. Which leads to my next piece of advice, DON’T expect to sit down. I really wish my fingers would let me type the words ‘sit whenever you can,’ but unlike other associates sitting half-hour at a time in meetings all day, you do not and will not have the luxury of resting your feet.
And while you’re at it, more food, more water, more beer. Vegas is the city of gluttony and excess anyway, right? Always error on the side of ordering more than you think you need, of all of these things, because you DO NOT want to run out at lunchtime and have to wait hours to receive more. In fact, if the size and setup of your booth allows, order cases of bottled water, soft drinks, and other non-perishables for delivery before the show starts and store the extras until you need them.
DO find time to HAVE FUN, and enjoy the company
DON’T stress. Okay, a little bit of stress is a good thing, enough to keep you motivated and on top of your deadlines, but don’t let the stress and the responsibility jade your experience and outlook on Vegas as a whole. Sure, you’re going to have to go set up at the convention center sans air-conditioning while everyone else is poolside, but don’t let it get you down.
I’ve learned that I can’t go to Vegas days early and be able to relax anyway, so instead I build in time for relaxation after the show. The promise of free/leisure time at the end of the day Wednesday or a spa treatment once we get home is more than enough motivation to get through an exhausting, non-stop week.
This final thought is the most important: DO take time to enjoy the company. Sure we have video-conferencing and a company-wide gathering once a year, but one of my favorite parts of RECon is seeing everyone from other offices and remote locations. The energy felt at our booth and the sense of camaraderie is by far the biggest and best pay-off for all the hard work and long hours.