IRCE 2014 Chicago – The Ultimate Guide

By Nik Rajpal

It’s the 10-year anniversary of IRCE! We’ve been attending IRCE for so many years now. We’ve been there as the conference landed in the great cities of Boston, San Diego and, most recently, Chicago. IRCE 2014 is going to be a blast; we know this because it never fails to deliver.

What have we learned over the years? Plenty. And we’d like to share a sampling of our findings and ideas with you, to hopefully help ready you, too, for the IRCE experience. If you have any other ideas for us to add to this list, we’ll do it on-the-fly — come tell us at Booth Number 1706.

Conquer the travel basics:

Plan for the best sessions:

The IRCE agenda can be found here: http://www.irce.com/agenda. By setting your itinerary in advance, you won’t waste precious time or arrive late to events that you don’t want to miss.

What attendees often tell us is that the sessions are kind of bland. It’s not a knock on the speakers or IRCE — it’s just that the events need to appeal to a mass audience, for the most part. Speaker opportunities are meant to be broad-sweeping and too often, speakers are afraid to share their “secret sauce.” It’s an issue you see at most large retail conferences and this is no exception.

What you should aim for are the rare gems. If you’re looking for really good material, check out our on-demand seminars; they’re full of strategic workshops and secret sauce: http://www.exclusiveconcepts.com/blog/category/webinars

Know the floor plan and where to go in the Exhibit Hall:

The Exhibit hall is huge — it’s designed to cater to a large number of attendees. But it’s easy to get lost in all of the happenings. To avoid standing in the middle of it all, slack-jawed, print out this floor plan and keep it on your person at all times: http://www.irce.com/floorplan. Or bookmark it!

Oh, and if you want to find us, we’ll be at Booth Number 1706.

Get the inside scoop on the parties (including the official party):

This year, the IRCE 10th Anniversary Party will be at the House of Blues – and it’s going to be an island-themed party! It’s located at the House of Blues Chicago, 329 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60654. The party will be on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, from 7:30 – 10:30 p.m.

Yes, there are many other parties that you’ll be hearing about. But don’t forget to go with the flow. None of them are worth avoiding. Every one that we’ve been to has been pretty fun. We recommend asking people you know or want to hang out with where they plan on going at least an hour before the booths close.

One thing to note is that getting a cab can be a total nightmare. Prepare to leave early or late — either one. The lines that form for cabs at the hotel and the Exhibit Hall will be long and winding. When the parties are over — you guessed it — you’ll be in the muck again, as everyone will be scrambling for hotel transportation. Be patient. Wait it out or leave 15-30 minutes before the parties start closing. When the DJ says “this is the last throwback of the night,” you’re already too late.

Be the first to recommend great places to eat:

Chicago is known for its food. Big steaks, large portions of Italian, deep-dish pizza and some fun sushi restaurants. Use these quick links to get the best of what you’re looking for – these links use McCormick Place as the center point.

Know the hotels and a few good tips:

Remember, the full list of hotels is here: http://www.irce.com/travel-information.

We always stay at the main hotel, the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Chicago. It boasts a lot of great amenities:

  1. Rooms that are perfect for business (with free wi-fi)
  2. Connected to the conference center
  3. A bar that’s open till very late and offers nice finger foods
  4. Nice little café downstairs for your morning pick-me-up
  5. A recently renovated gym
  6. Indoor pool if you want to swim a little and relax
  7. Go for a nice jog on this path

Don’t forget to tip the staff. More than likely, you’ll be joined by many other conference-goers at the hotel you’re staying at, and you don’t want to overlook the work the staff will need to put in to make your stay go smoothly.

Avoiding a wardrobe crisis:

Whether you’re a vendor, attendee or presenter, remember this: there’s no dress code here. Some people will dress like they’re at a geek convention, others a fashion expo — and many will look like they’re ready for a job interview.

If you’re a vendor, coordinate with your team and dress according to your company’s image. That is to say, if you’ve yet to wear a tie-dye T-shirt to the office, IRCE may not be the time to do it.

We’re entrepreneurial marketers at Exclusive Concepts, so we typically dress modern-business-casual or business-formal. That’s fairly standard if you look at how most people are dressing at IRCE these days. But, if you feel so compelled, don’t be afraid to express yourself. To help you achieve the look you’re after, I’ve summoned my fashion sense to compile the following IRCE-ready dress options:

See you there!

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