Next week, thousands of facility and design professionals will be walking the floors of The Merchandise Mart in Chicago to see the latest and greatest in products for commercial spaces. NeoCon is the largest exhibition of its kind in North America.
And while the primary focus of the show is office furniture, furnishings, fabrics, flooring, fixtures, and accessories, there’s pretty much something for everyone at NeoCon.
Including healthcare designers and healthcare facility managers.
I worked my first NeoCon in 1982 in my first job working for The Merchandise Mart’s marketing department. Since then, I’ve not missed a NeoCon — attending as a magazine editor, marketing consultant, nonprofit executive, and speaker.
NeoCon is Not for Wimps
No matter how you cut it, NeoCon is a tough show to work. The sheer size of The Mart (each floor is 200,000 sq. ft.) makes it impossible to see everything.
Walking those floors all day and fighting the crowds makes your feet and brain hurt, too. But there are always parties or social events at night that help ease the pain.
Many healthcare product manufacturers have permanent showrooms at The Mart. But many don’t — their booths are scattered about on the temporary exhibit Floor 7. And some, particularly the fabric and flooring manufacturers, show all their market sector product lines in one showroom.
If you want to survive NeoCon, here’s 6 essential tips:
- Make a list of the showrooms and booths you want to visit by floor. Consult the NeoCon website for a full exhibitor listing.
- Start at the top of the building and work your way down. That way you can use the stairs if the elevators are too crowded. Walking down stairs is much easier than walking up.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Even though this is a design crowd where fashion counts, ladies, leave the heels at home. And don’t wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Your feet will not be happy.
- Register before you get there. There’s a $25 onsite registration fee. If you do it beforehand, its free.
- Go to educational sessions if there is a topic you’re interested in or need to earn CEUs, but NeoCon is really about seeing the products.
- Get plenty of sleep and don’t forget to eat. Food and rest are essential to working a long day at a trade show.
Fun fact: NeoCon originally stood for National Exposition of Contract (furniture).
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