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The Ultimate NeoCon Survival Guide

Think Space

The Ultimate NeoCon Survival Guide

May 21 2019

With 4.2 million gross square feet spanning two city blocks, there’s a lot of ground to cover at the annual commercial design event fondly known as NeoCon. Once the largest building in the world, the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago has housed the event since its inception in 1969.

Attending this “launch pad of innovation” alongside 50,000 of your closest friends? You might want a few pointers if this is your first (or fifth!) time joining the party! Below, we’ve compiled tips and tricks from seasoned NeoCon veterans to make your trip smooth sailing:

  • Wear Walking Shoes – Our number one suggestion is to don comfortable walking shoes the entire time you’ll be trekking through the Mart. Whether you’re attempting to pass through crowded hallways or standing in any number of lines, comfort should be a top priority.
  • Register Before You Arrive – Though you can certainly register at the event, it’s far easier (and less hassle) to register beforehand. This’ll save you time and energy especially since those things will be in short supply. Biggest plus? It’s free if you register by June 7th!
  • Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed – Starting your day early helps you get to where you want to go and sets you off on the right foot. Needless to say, getting plenty of shut-eye doesn’t hurt either!
  • Start at the Top! – Even if you’re the most ardent of fitness buffs, going down stairs is easier that going up. Plus, with 50k+ guests, waiting in line for the elevator tends to take some time! Additionally, try going up to go down! Even if the elevator is going up, you can continue to ride it until it gets to your destination.
  • Make a List of Must-Sees – Plan ahead and make sure to stop in the showrooms that are on the top of your list. Key takeaway: the HON Showroom is on the 11th floor!
  • Take Pictures (If Allowed)– No one could ever accuse NeoCon of being lackluster! With 500 of the leading commercial design companies bringing out their best, there are sure to be memorable moments. A handy tip? Take photos of who the exhibitor is to help organize your photos later.
  • Keep a Notepad Handy! – New HON product launching that you want to remember? Use a pocket-sized notepad or your phone to take notes of things you want to follow up on later. Bonus tip: have a HON member scan you NeoCon badge to request any follow-up literature to be sent after the show!
  • Pack Light – Leave the backpacks and laptop bags at home. Not only will it get heavier throughout the day, but all you really need are a couple of business cards and your phone. Trust us, you’ll get plenty of bags and handouts, so you’ll be leaving with more than you came with!
  • Don’t Forget to Refuel!  - Stomach rumbling? Don’t ignore it. Grab a quick lunch inside the Mart or venture into the Chicago streets to find a worthy meal. There are plenty of places within walking distance!
  • Plan Your Departure – Traffic can be a bear and leaving the Mart with thousands of your closest friends can make catching a cab difficult. Leave early or stay late to combat the craziness of the end-of-day mass exit!
  • Enjoy Yourself – Remember to have fun! If you’re not a Chicago native, visit a few Chicago landmarks while you’re there or venture into the suburbs for a quieter evening.

While it can certainly be overwhelming at times, NeoCon is a staple in the commercial design world. For those who’ve attended the event, what are a few of the tips you live by? Share in the comments below!