Attending conferences, especially large ones, can be harrowing. Which panels should you attend? Who are the most important people to network with? How do you manage your time? These are the questions that all conference attendees have to answer, whether consciously or subconsciously.
Last week, I attended the International Council of Shopping Center (ICSC) Southeast Conference in Atlanta. The conference was very positive, with many people expressing increased optimism for the retail market. With so much information and valuable networking opportunities available, it can be extremely helpful to have some pieces of advice prior to attending a show. So, below I have highlighted some key tips on surviving conferences.
• Schedule meetings. This is a great opportunity to meet people that you wouldn't be able to otherwise. Before the conference, start reaching out to people that you would be interested in meeting to find out if they are planning to attend. ICSC members are able to view the attendee list on the event's webpage and can search for registered attendees based on their titles, business type, and even state/province, to name a few.
Arranging meetings is a good way to add possible deals to your pipeline that weren't there before and build your book of business. Conferences can also be a good time to sit down face-to-face with your out-of-town clients.
• Take time to explore. In my free time, I make sure to walk around and see every booth at the convention. Exploring the exhibit hall is a good way to see where new construction is happening and what kinds of projects developers and retailers have in the pipeline. It was also interesting to see what kinds of properties investors find hot right now and where they are looking to buy.
At ICSC, several retailers come to scout new locations. Since my focus is leasing and landlord representation, ICSC was a good opportunity for me to learn what kinds of growth strategies retail concepts have planned to see if any of them align with the properties I represent.
• Keep your ears open. Knowing what the current trends are is crucial to success in commercial real estate. Trends can shift quickly, so it's important to always keep your finger on the pulse. By attending panels and speaking with other real estate professionals, you should be able to perceive what's next on the horizon.
• Take time to have fun. Conferences can be stressful so it's important to schedule some fun activities. Arrange a client dinner, head out to a company sponsored party, or enjoy a night out on the town with colleagues and clients. Strengthening relationships by socializing with people in the industry outside of work is key to our business. Just be careful to not be remembered for the wrong reasons and be prepared to take on the next day!
While the retail market certainly took a hit during the recession, I have no doubt that business will continue to improve. The connections and knowledge I gained at the ICSC Southeast Conference will be valuable information going forward.
— Justin Berryman is a director of Franklin Street Real Estate Services, specializing in leasing and landlord representation. He is based in the firm's Atlanta office.