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The NeoCon 2023 Survival Guide

NeoCon 2023 takes place June 12 – 14 at The Mart in Chicago. Known as one of the most important events in the commercial interiors industry, NeoCon brings together designers, architects, manufacturers, students, and end-users all under one roof. This is always a fun event and one that can feel a lot like a class reunion. You’re sure to bump into people from different stages in your career and hopefully, you’ll meet lots of new people. If this is your first time attending, we put together this NeoCon 2023 Survival Guide to help you get the most out of the event while feeling and looking good.

The Mart

Comfort is Key.

You’ll have a lot of ground to cover to get the most out of this event. Be sure you get a good night’s sleep, properly caffeinate, and plan your look for comfort. (Fashionable comfort, of course, you’ll be surrounded by designers!) With that in mind, keep these tips in mind:

  • Wear comfortable shoes. You are going to be on your feet a lot, both standing and walking. You may also opt for stairs if the lines for the elevator are long.
  • Think layers. If you’re prone to getting cold with the AC blasting, bring a light sweater or scarf.
  • Pack a light and comfortable bag. A heavy bag can be just as draining as sore feet. Carry a small bag packed with only the essentials.

About Those Essentials…

Thankfully, our devices have replaced many of the heavy items we used to carry around, but make sure you have room in that small bag for:

  • Business cards. In a crowded and busy show, handing someone your card is still one of the most efficient ways to quickly exchange info. Pro tip: keep your cards in an easy-to-access pocket so you’re not digging through your bag every time you need one.
  • Water. You will definitely want to stay hydrated. Thankfully, The Mart has water bottle filling stations located throughout the building, so bring your own bottle.
  • Portable charger. Arrive fully charged and be ready to charge on the go if you start running low.  

If you’re happily lightweight at the beginning of the show, try to stay that way. Many booths and showrooms have free promotional items. Some are super cool and some will become your future clutter. Before picking something up, ask yourself if it’s worth carrying around the rest of the day.

A Few Additional Tips

  • If you’re an exhibitor, there is a FedEx in the The Mart. Note, there is not a UPS or USPS. (That has closed since last year.) This is very convenient if you have small items you want to ship to yourself to pick up at The Mart or send home at the end of the show.
  • The second floor has a food court, so you can have lunch without leaving the building. Many places (such as my favorite, Just Salad) even have online ordering, so you can skip the line.
  • There is a public transportation stop for the Brown or Purple lines inside The Mart, also on the second floor. Taxis can be expensive and traffic can be annoying, especially if you’re heading to the airport during rush hour.
  • Make a plan ahead of time. Between the exhibitors, keynotes, CEUs, and programming, there is a lot going on. If there are things you definitely want to see or do or people you want to connect with, arrive with a plan so you don’t miss them.
  • Have fun! This is an event for learning but also for networking. Don’t miss out on some of the happy hours and social events so you can catch up with friends and foster relationships with new contacts.

Make time for inspiration.

NeoCon can be overwhelming. If your schedule allows, try to make time for something outside of The Mart. Give yourself a mini inspiration day. Within walking distance is the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, shopping along the Magnificent Mile, and Millennium Park. Treat yourself to something unrelated to commercial interiors to give your brain a bit of a palette cleanser.

Cloud Gate, Millennium Park

We hope you find our NeoCon 2023 Survival Guide useful. If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments. And please, don’t forget to stop by and say hi to us in Booth 7-3050! Kristen Dettoni and Kristin Crane will both be attending. Remember, NeoCon is free to attend, but you do need to register ahead of time.

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Kristin Crane

Kristin Crane has designed jacquard designs for the home furnishing and residential jobber market for many years, with mills in the US and in China. Today, she writes about pattern and design trends for Design Pool from her home in Providence, Rhode Island. When not writing about fabric, she can be found weaving in her home studio or hiking along the Rhode Island coast.


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