he ICSC Whistler Conference, which takes place January 27-29 at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort, is a must for North American real estate and retail professionals. Not only is it one of the most sought after conferences in those fields, but it’s also a perfect excuse to combine business and pleasure.
While the event’s schedule won’t leave you the time to hit the slopes from Monday the 28th onwards, many attendees will get there on Friday or Saturday to do some skying before the conference. If you’re not into skiing, you could also try out bobsleigh at the Whistler Sliding Centre over the weekend.
Organized each year by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), this is where Canadian retailers and property managers meet to discuss new trends, build partnerships and do business together. It’s also a great place to build relationships with professionals from Western Canada, since Whistler can be reached via a short flight or drive from Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
The event can be very profitable in terms of business development, but you need to be properly prepared. As is true for all events of this kind, if you just buy a ticket and simply attend seminars, you are probably throwing your money out the window.
On the other hand, if you prepare properly, the registration fee, which ranges from $443 for ICSC members to $617 for non-members, could be one the best investments you make in 2019. It should come as no surprise that I will be there with the POTLOC’s GTA Account Manager Mike Garard. Here are five things you need to do to get the most out of your attendance at the ICSC Whistler Conference:
1. ADD SEMINARS THAT YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO MISS TO YOUR CALENDAR
The Whistler Conference schedule is jam-packed; so trying to attend all the events’ seminars is probably not a good idea. In general, most of the value in a conference of this kind is networking, and it is usually more profitable to spend time in front of the coffee machine having a discussion with someone than sitting in a room listening to a speaker.
Also, check out the conference schedule and put only the seminars that you absolutely don’t want to miss in your calendar. Personally, I put the panel featuring David Patchell-Evans, CEO of Goodlife Fitness Club (January 28, 1pm) and the keynote presentation of Jon Montgomery, the host of the hit television program The Amazing Race Canada (January 29, 2pm).
2. IDENTIFY PARTICIPANTS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO MEET AND ADD THEM ON LINKEDIN
The ICSC web portal gives you access to a list of everyone attending the conference. At the time of writing, the list contained no less than 2177 names! Each name is associated with a phone number and an email address. It may seem tedious, but considering the quality of the participants, it is worth spending a few hours to go through the list.
Put the names and email addresses of everyone you’d like to meet in an Excel file or on a Google Spreadsheet, without necessarily prioritizing. Then add all the people on your list into LinkedIn.
3. PLAN AS MANY MEETINGS AS POSSIBLE
Assign a priority of 1 to 3 to each participant you would like to meet, then start writing emails to people who have been assigned a priority rating of 1. If they have not responded after a few days, make a reminder on LinkedIn, then move to the people in the next priority as long as your calendar is not filled … or almost. In fact, it is not a bad idea to block certain time slots for unexpected meetings.
To avoid making round trips to schedule each meeting, use Calendly. This enables you to create a link through which anyone with access to the link can book a time slot directly in your calendar. Also, by creating a link specifically for the ICSC Whistler Conference, you can also establish a meeting place in advance.
Would you like to connect with one of our experts and be one of those people who’s always on top of things? Meet with Mike Garard, our retail and commercial real estate specialist.
4. NETWORK DAY AND NIGHT
Just because your calendar is full doesn’t mean that you can’t meet someone randomly at the ICSC Whistler Conference, on the contrary. During idle time, be sure to spend time in the hotel’s lobby or in the hallway, where you may recognize people with whom you could not get an appointment.
Networking opportunities do not end after the last seminar of the day, on the contrary. On the evening of the conference, don’t rush to your hotel rooms. Instead, make sure you go out with other attendees. If you’re into fine dining, Whistler have great restaurants such as the Red Door Bistro. If you’re into burgers, go to Splitz Grill; it might not look as impressive as the Red Door, but they sure know how to cook a burger.
The conference takes place at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort, so the most convenient option is to book a room there. This will enable you to arrive early at the conference in the morning and network until later, without sacrificing your sleep. If your corporate budget is more limited, there are other more affordable options, including Airbnb, as you can see below.
5. PACK YOUR BAGS IN ADVANCE
There are some things you should never forget to take with you to a conference. The most important is a portable battery, to recharge your iPhone if its battery dies in the middle of the day, which is very frustrating when trying to add people to LinkedIn and follow the #ICSC hashtag on Twitter. I always bring a good hundred or so business cards (you can never bring too many) and promotional items if you have any. It is also a good idea to bring a distinctive object that allows people you’ve never met to recognize you in the crowd.
If you have found these tips useful, and you want to come say hello or talk with one of my colleagues, book a meeting with us and I’m sure we’ll manage to fit each other into our busy calendars!