It is 2PM on the Friday before NeoCon. The teams installing the products are getting packed to go home. The showroom designers are fine-tuning props and lighting. The florists are busy with those elaborate plantings. Pilots of Chicago-bound airliners carrying early arrivers are thinking about other places to land because everything going into O’Hare is slowed up for low ceilings. Then there are those of us still at the office, planning to make our trek to epicenter of all things NeoCon over the weekend.
For one and for all, we present these last words of advice before the freshly-polished revolving doors at the Merchandise Mart’s Kinzie/Wells entrance become machines of perpetual motion for three days of NeoCon.
During Show Hours
Do whatever you can to avoid standing in line – hopefully you are pre-registered. If not, get there extra early.
Exit your cab near the Mart, but not at Mart, especially in the morning – the Kinzie/Wells area is a popular drop-off, as is the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza.
Elevator strategies are largely obsolete following the discovery of the freight-vators years ago — one maneuver is taking the escalator at the Orleans-end of the Mart from One to Two, then getting on elevator. It’s a roll of dice, really.
Walking the stairs is the straight line from A to B – the exercise will work off those cocktail party munchies and heavy late suppers. Using the stairs is also the most predictable way of getting around from a timing standpoint.
A popular approach seems to be starting on a high floor in the morning and working down to 3 in the afternoon — hit Au Bon Pain early for a little breakfast nosh, then blast up to 11 on the elevator to be there when the showroom doors open.
Speaking of food, consider having a $19 sandwich or salad for lunch on one of the exhibit floors, rather than taking the time to leave the building to have the same food for $8.95 — of course, a break from all the action can be good. If you are making the cocktail party circuit on Monday night, having eaten a little something around 1 or 2pm is a good plan.
Your schedule of appointments may have looked good on paper, but staying on track may require diligence — keep in mind about the stairs, and try to contact the other party if you have to delay or cancel. Of course, that suggests you’ll be able to get a signal on your phone. Fate being what it is, you’ll try to contact your 3pm appointment with news that you’re running late, and then you’ll notice after dashing hither and yon to find a signal that you’re standing in front of the showroom where the meeting is to be held.
A tote bag and lots of business cards — bring both to the show. One will let you bundle all manner of goodies and giveaways back home; the other will help the givers of those goodies to find you when you get there. If you are bringing lots of stuff to the Mart, get yourself one of those collapsible luggage dollies — your back will thank you. Seriously, NeoCon is for networking, so have your cards along, then make the rounds of the parties and events. Stay a while when you can, but everyone understands if you have to keep moving.
NeoCon and Dressing for Success
There’s just as much fashion in the halls as in the showrooms — looking smart is part of the NeoCon playbook and the rule is that there is no rule. From college kids to those who were attending NeoCons before the Class of 2011 was born, it’s time to get your fashion on. Thinking about students reminds me of the years when the very spiky hairdos were the rage – being in an elevator with a half-dozen undergrads was like being in a phone booth with six restless porcupines.
Layers are the best way to go for women, I am told — this is because the showrooms are pumped full of cold air at night. My friend tells me that she wear layers that she can add or subtract at will, with the caveat that the temperature outdoors has no bearing on the temperature indoors. Be prepared, she says.
There’s always a great sale on shoes the weekend before NeoCon at Nordstrom’s over on Michigan Avenue, I am also told — my friend tells me that she’s commented on other’s shoes and been told that they were acquired at Nordstrom’s, on sale.
For the gentlemen, my sources say that casual Friday doesn’t continue into NeoCon week. Ties remain a matter of choice for the intent you are trying to convey. A jacket over a shirt and some form of trousers, or a suit, are the smart choices. As for men’s shoes, let the comfort of your feet be your guide.
A word about rain — the word is “preparedness”. It usually rains when it’s least convenient and when you are unprepared. Bring something — anything — compact that you can have on your person in the event of the unexpected rain shower. Worst-case scenario: in New York during the early days of my career, we wore trash bags poncho-style when caught out. (It was the Eighties, in SoHo.) And in a pinch, it could work in Chicago.
See you at Merchandise Mart, and have a great show.
Thanks for the contributions to Janet Rauscher, Ken Stewart and Tom Walker.