If months of the year had feelings, some of them might indulge dark resentments toward March. Seems that March has something for everyone where celebrations, events and holidays are concerned. Maybe the less fortunate months have reasons to be resentful. April is saddled with the deadline for filing income tax. August has a long history as back-to-school month. “There goes March,” they say. “St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, the first day of Spring, and NeoCon.com goes live—this from a month spelled with just one vowel!”
Compounding the woes of April and August again this year, NeoCon.com went live on the first day of March. Just as the day after Thanksgiving officially starts the holiday shopping season, the day NeoCon.com goes live starts the countdown to the show’s opening day on June 11. Inspiring tingles in some and shivers in others, the time for nailing down commitments has arrived.
Sara O’Hare and Kasey Madden stand ready to help tenants and exhibitors connect with NeoCon’s 40,000-plus attendees. How? A recent conversation with these members of the Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. team explored that very question.
The activities that MMPI provides to tenants and exhibitors might be sorted into two categories: benefits received gratis as NeoCon participants; and, sponsorships available to distinguish, headline or otherwise promote participants willing to invest additional dollars (Our words, not theirs—SW). As with any event comprising 700 or more participants, there is a way of doing things—and getting more done in the bargain—that is easily understood once explained. Think of this as a review of benefits, opportunities, processes and insights as a checklist for maximizing the value on investment from NeoCon 2012.
Please Remain Seated: How can NeoCon participants become aware of all the benefits available from MMPI’s NeoCon marketing package?
Ms. O’Hare (Director of Marketing, NeoCon/NeoCon East): We promote our marketing opportunities through four or five emails to tenants and exhibitors. It is important that we have an email address for the person who is planning or making decisions about marketing/communications activities. Sometimes the only email address we have is for the person who signed the lease, who may or may not be responsible for marketing/communications efforts.
Participants will find a list of marketing benefits and tips on how to maximize them at exhibitorinfo.com. This is a dedicated website for the shows MMPI produces, with a link to an online marketing manual and operations guide for NeoCon. These guides and other information on the website are a great resource.
Ms. Madden (Vice President Sponsorship, MMPI): Another benefit is the NeoCon button or banner that we make available for use on a participant’s website. Using these NeoCon branding elements connects the event’s prestige with the participant’s website. Visitors to the website will identify the manufacturer with NeoCon, and then click the button or banner for more information. Participants can link their website visitors to a NeoCon page on their site or link to myneocon—really, it is up to the participant to decide. Something we recommend is providing a link to neocon.com on any special pages or sites. This way, visitors that click through to can register or get more information about the show.
PRS: What is the deadline for advance registration this year?
Ms. O’Hare: Advance registration for free admittance to the NeoCon show floors and keynotes closes on June 4. After June 4, the only way to register is onsite, which means paying $25 and probably standing in line. We encourage the free, online registration because attendees using it get up to the show floors or into the keynotes faster.
PRS: That brings to mind those entering the Merchandise Mart for NeoCon or to get to work—what opportunities exist to get their attention?
Ms. Madden: Each day, 38,000 people walk through the Merchandise Mart to offices in the building or nearby. When we add in over 40,000 NeoCon attendees, the potential audience is nearly 80,000. Sponsorship opportunities involving the first or second floors give NeoCon participants heightened visibility to those entering at the street-level doors, from the CTA stop or crossing the pedway above Orleans Street. We’re going bold this year: already we have a sponsor for a sculptural hanging at the escalator in front of Starbucks, a sponsor installing product in the South Lobby, a sponsor doing wall and ceiling projections and another looking at an opportunity for installations in the pedway or the Helmut Jahn rotunda. Each of these will become a branded space, such as the Herman Miller Lobby, and identified on this year’s floor-by-floor maps.
PRS: At one time, a listing of sponsorship opportunities was circulated—is that coming out soon?
Ms. Madden: The list will be going out soon, although we are open to ideas that participants bring to us, or when they call to ask us to help them do something unique to get in front of the attendees. We know that NeoCon participants are some of the most creative people around. We want to encourage them to look at the possibilities of the Merchandise Mart’s first and second floors, then come up with ways to bring their message and even their product to these public floors. I am particularly interested in seeing more installation-type sponsorships, especially in the pass-through areas between the North and South corridors, to take advantage of the building’s large spaces. Naturally, there are all sorts of opportunities to sponsor coffee bars, do elevator signage and things that connect with the attendees in other ways.
Ms. O’Hare: For the tenants and exhibitors that take on sponsorships, we work toward including them in teaser messages that go out over Twitter to @neocon followers. Hopefully these sponsors retweet these messages to their followers. And we try to mention all of the sponsors that follow us on Twitter at @neocon. We also have a Facebook page and a LinkedIn group. If a tenant or exhibitor lets us know they have an event planned during NeoCon, we can help promote it on NeoCon.com before the show so attendees can plan on being there.
PRS: What other social media benefits are available?
Ms. O’Hare: The free profile page on myneocon is a major benefit, but these pages are only as good as the information uploaded into them. Tenants and exhibitors at NeoCon have password-protected access to their page, where they can upload text and images to promote what they are doing or showing during the show. These pages go live around the first of May, and stay live after NeoCon until August. This information helps attendees browse through the participants, then make decisions about where to visit.
PRS: What do you know about how attendees spend their time at NeoCon?
Ms. O’Hare: We know that the average attendee will sign-up for and attend as many as five of the seminars offering CEUs. Most, but not all, of these are professionals meeting their licensure requirements. We are working to better segment the floors now, creating pavilions by floor, allowing attendees to maximize the use of their time when seeking products in their areas of expertise or specialization. Association forums are another benefit to attendees who are members of IIDA, ASID, AIA, USGBC or others. The spaces for forums allow these associations to host their members for programs, and entertainment. For others who choose to take some of their time for architectural or design inspiration, tours to points of interest and local attractions are also available.
PRS: The Monday and Tuesday schedules have similarities, but Wednesday’s schedule is unique. Can you talk about why?
Ms. O’Hare: Usually those that travel to NeoCon spend one and one-half days at the show (Monday and Tuesday). For Wednesday, we focus on drawing attendees from the Chicago area, those who can easily get to the Merchandise Mart for one day. This includes architects, designers, dealers, students and end users. While many of those in the target audience for Wednesday could drop by the Merchandise Mart anytime, doing so would miss the exhibitors on 7 and 8. Corporate staff members would not be there, either. We plan Wednesday as a day for regional attendees to have access to all of the tenants and exhibitors in full NeoCon regalia. This year we have arranged for hotelier Ian Schrager to give a keynote at Noon on Wednesday. His newest property, the Public Chicago, opened in Chicago recently and this is a great opportunity for him and a local audience to get together. We’ll have VIP passes for seminars that day, special seating for events, and extend a special invite to students in architecture and design. Wedneday is also President’s Day at NeoCon, where presidents of participating companies are available in their spaces to meet and hear from attendees.
PRS: If asked about ways to build traffic to a tenant’s or exhibitor’s space, what are some tried and true methods?
Ms. O’Hare: First, there is product. NeoCon is the show where product is shown, and the earlier the better that participants begin promoting the presence of their introductions at the show. Use the VIP email invites, create a page on myneocon, consider a sponsorship. Attendees are drawn to excitement, to something going on, so make sure to promote introductions or other things happening in showrooms or market suites.
Ms. Madden: Again, sponsorships can place a company name and a company’s products in locations beyond the show floors. Elevating a company and its products through a sponsorship add visibility, and give attendees an additional way to encounter a product they have been trying to find.
Ms. O’Hare: Something else: food and giveaways. Both of them help create traffic. Plus, check out the PR opportunities at exhibitorinfo.com. At least 45 industry publications cover NeoCon. And, there is a separate offering of specialized enhancements for neocon.com offered to participants. These packages offer upgraded, real-time reporting on NeoCon traffic, with other choices for increasing visibility among all who visit our website during the show and afterwards. Information about these opportunities comes to participants from our neocon.com partner, DesignerPages.
Add contact names to the MMPI NeoCon email list
—Call or email your leasing agent, or
—Email Ashley Morrison (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Add a showroom or booth event to NeoCon.com
—Download the Showroom and Booth Hospitality form at exhibitorinfo.com & submit
Request HTML invitation, or
Request NeoCon digital logo
—Download the Promotional Materials Request form at exhibitorinfo.com & submit
Participate in President’s Day at NeoCon
—Download the President’s Day Participation form at exhibitorinfo.com & submit
Set-up myneocon profile page
—Available to login and upload by April 15, 2012
—Email questions to: email@example.com
Establish a sponsorship
—Contact Kasey Madden (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Follow NeoCon on social media
Tenant: Leaseholder on permanent showroom floors
Exhibitor: Leaseholder of space on temporary exhibit floors
Participant: Mart tenants and/or exhibitors approved for NeoCon participation
Attendee: Individual registered through MMPI for NeoCon
neocon.com: Official NeoCon website for show registration, list of participants, seminar registration and other functions.
myneocon: An area within neocon.com where NeoCon participants preview their plans and introductions for an audience of registered attendees. Attendees can then create floor-by-floor maps to the tenants and exhibitors they want to visit.