The ICSC Canadian Convention, which takes place in Toronto on October 2, is essential for anyone involved in the shopping centre industry. 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. This conference is also an opportunity to sign any agreements that were under discussion over the last few months before the year ends.
It is therefore an event that 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 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 $503 for ICSC members to $1005 for non-members, could be one the best investments you make this year. It should come as no surprise that I will be there with the POTLOC’s CEO, Rodolphe Barrere, and our Account Managers Gabriel Guillemette and Mike Garard. Here are five things you need to do to get the most out of your attendance at the ICSC Canadian Convention:
1. Add seminars that you really don’t want to miss to your calendar
The Canadian ICSC Convention 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 CIBC’s Chief Economist Benjamin Tal’s seminar in my calendar, which will address, among other things, the impact of NAFTA on the retail industry (October 2, 9: 00-9: 30), followed by Rodolphe Barrere on the future of consumer research (I’m biased about that one, but I would go even if he wasn’t my boss), and that of Steve Dennis on the future of shopping centres (October 3, 9:15 am-10:15 am).
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 1795 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 Canadian Convention, you can also establish a meeting place in advance. If you do not have a booth, the Networking Lounge (number 803 on the map) is probably your best option.
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 Canadian Convention, on the contrary. During idle time, be sure to spend time in the conference room’s refreshment area, where you may recognize people with whom you could not get an appointment having a coffee or eating a sandwich. Memorize your targets’ faces by checking out their LinkedIn profiles and go on the attack!
Networking opportunities do not end after the last seminar of the day, on the contrary. On the evening of the conference, many corporate events take place outside the conference walls, including several private parties with open bars. Do not abuse open bars, but be aware that these parties are great places to build closer ties with potential partners, so be on the lookout and don’t miss attending these events in the evening.
The Metro Toronto Convention Center, where the conference takes place, may be close to Union Station, but booking a room nearby could make it easier for you, especially if you like to go out at night. This will enable you to arrive early at the conference in the morning and network until later, without sacrificing your sleep. On the ICSC web portal, there are three hotels nearby, Delta Toronto, Fairmount Royal York and Intercontinental Toronto Center, starting at $559 per night. 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. I once knew someone who always put a turquoise handkerchief in his shirt’s front pocket when he went to conferences.
If you have found these tips useful, and you want to come say hello or talk with one of my colleagues, come to see us at booth 2415. It’s just beside the Dairy Queen, so you can’t miss it!