An Attendee Experience Designed to ‘Surprise and Delight’ at NRF Big Show

January 25, 2016

By Elizabeth Johnson

The cold January temperatures couldn’t be felt inside New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center last week as the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show sizzled with new technology and solutions for retailers.

The show is held in New York City every year - the mecca of the retail industry and a convenient location for international retailers who make up about 25 percent of the attendees.

“The energy, enthusiasm and passion come together at the Big Show and it makes every January something truly very special,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO, NRF announced.

This year’s Big Show topped last year, with 34,000 attendees, as  well as more than 575 exhibitors encompassing 228,800 net square feet, 300 speakers and a keynote address by U.S. statesman and retired four-star general Colin Powell.

The Expo Hall nearly exploded with all of the new technology retailers could need, such as cloud solutions, payments options, POS software, surveillance solutions and much more.

Numerous “celebrity appearances” by the Kool-Aid Man, Mr. Peanut and the Oscar Meyer Weiner mobile delighted attendees. Despite the show’s success, NRF staffers set out to go above and beyond the status quo to create the ultimate attendee experience.

“We want to be the Disney of trade shows,” said Susan Newman, NRF senior vice president, conferences and marketing.

Newman detailed some of the changes and additions NRF made to address some of attendees’ biggest concerns around seating and food options:

·         Shrunk registration’s footprint at the Javits Center and incentivized attendees to use satellite registration locations at hotels in order to increase lounge seating

·         Created ‘Retail Across America’ lounge with seating area and charging stations

·         Changed members-only lounge to NRF Clubhouse which was open to everyone and included seating, charging stations, meeting cubes and snacks

·         Launched ‘Food Truck Alley’ outside of Javits Center to provide more and different food options

·         Added heathy food options to snack breaks

·         Placed bins filled with energy bars, fruit and other snacks around the building

·         Offered ‘Warm Goodbyes’ with hot chocolate and candy bars and an ‘NYC Apple Cart’ with apple cider and apples

·         Filled NRF Rolling Carts with giveaways

·         Surprised attendees with $5 Starbucks gift cards when they were on shuttle buses, getting shoe shines or even standing in line at Starbucks

·         Kept attendees hydrated by setting up water coolers everywhere.

NRF Big Show organizers also launched two new areas on the show floor - Launchpad and ilab. The Launchpad featured promising start-ups in one space with the goal that these companies will graduate to the main floor next year.

The Launch Pad start-ups received stage time to educate retailers about their products as well. The ilab featured some of the coolest and fun consumer-focues products on the market, including a car seat that buckles itself, 3D printing and robots that were very popular networkers.

The retail industry reinvents itself every six months and relies on NRF to keep up with the trends; to know what unique and different solutions are available.

“There is intense pressure to stay ahead. We bring them all of the solutions for front-of-house and back-of-house,” Newman said. “This is technology that will improve business, customer loyalty, their online presence and revenue.”

The next NRF Big Show will be Jan. 15-17, 2017. The show floor already is 97 percent rebooked.


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.