Top 10 Tips for Surviving ICSC RECon after 25 Years in Brokerage
by Paul Cohen, Regional Director
I attended my first ICSC in Vegas when I was 22 years old representing a shopping center management and leasing firm. Boy, did I make some rookie mistakes. Here are ten tips for surviving ICSC RECon that I’ve learned the hard way over the last 25 years of attending ICSC and other real estate conferences in Las Vegas.
1. If you fail to plan you plan to fail. If your plan is to stand in your booth and wait for customers to stroll on in (and you are not an attractive woman or giving out iPhones) then you’ve just wasted a whole heap of time and money. Figure out who you want to meet and reach out to them now! Your booth is just to show presence but most folks you want to meet with won’t just stroll up to your booth. Use the ICSC mobile app. It’s a great free app that you can use to see who you want to meet with, what sessions you want to attend, and it has a floor plan of the entire event.
2. You can’t hit a target you can’t see. Remember it’s quality not quantity. One of the first years I went, I just hung out with two guys who were also starting out in the business. One an architect and the other a banker. We are still good friends to this day and have done a fair amount of business over the years.
3. Stay healthy my friend. First time I went to ICSC, my roommate picked up 6 large bottles of Evian in the hotel lobby store. I asked him if there was a hurricane coming. Twenty-Four hours later with my lips chapped, throat dry and head aching, I realized the value of hydration. In a related topic, getting drunk will ruin your productivity the next day (if it doesn’t get you fired). As a former boss at CBRE would tell us at conferences, “Don’t go deep the first night.”
4. Always be prepared. I was a boy scout for 3 weeks but the motto stuck. Here are some things I take with me on any long weekend and keep in a pouch: a power pack and cord for all cellphones, band aids, Advil, Emergen-C, breath mints, stain remover, cough drops, needle and thread, Tums, wipes, hand sanitizer, Blistex, hair ties, scissors, and more. CREXi will be giving away survival necessities at Booth C2413 so if you find yourself unprepared, stop by and stock up.
5. Your Elevator pitch. It’s going to happen. You are going to be at a cocktail reception and a great potential client will be standing in front of you. It’s your big moment. It’s the entire reason to be at ICSC. Don’t blow it. I was at a cocktail reception with a colleague one year and we were standing with another guy. My colleague wanted to break the ice so he said to the gent “Hey Bucko, I’m Greg and this is Paul and we lease shopping centers.” The gent responded that he was the Head of Blockbuster retail and his name was not Bucko. Have a better elevator pitch than that! Here’s mine: “We run a dating site for brokers and investors to find the perfect property.” This is more immediately engaging than “we have an online Commercial Real Estate marketplace” Spoiler alert: turns out it didn’t matter about the Blockbuster guy.
6. Get one to have one. Let’s face it, it can be hard getting meetings unless you have a brand-new power center in Manhattan. So, a useful tip to meet retailers or developers is to partner with an existing client and set meetings with other retailers or developers. For example, if one of your clients is the head of retail for Coffee Co, a fictitious coffee company that is opening stores across the US, partnering with Coffee Co incentivizes landlords and developers to meet with you and vice versa.
7. Choose your roommates wisely. This one is obvious but it’s worth mentioning as it has ruined a few conferences for me. The colleague who is a bit of a character at home will turn into a complete nut in Vegas. If you don’t want to be woken by random ladies at 2am and/or your roommate knocking on the door drunk because they lost their key and/or your roommate getting into bed with you and saying, “I love you Cheryl” then either spring for your own room or room with the dullest guy in your company (in this scenario, you become the problem). Oh, and don’t check-in first because they’ll take your card for incidentals. I’ve paid for bath robes, a hefty mini bar bill and a movie called “Surf Girls of Malibu 3” all of which I did not partake in or watch. Honest.
8. Leave in comfort. I personally like to leave on a late-night flight out of Vegas and arrive home in the morning. I’m a good sleeper; don’t hate me! I learned early on from a former colleague who, upon arriving at our gate, disappeared into the men’s room and emerged wearing a sweat pants suit. I recall telling him that there wasn’t a boxing gym on the flight. However, when I looked over twenty minutes in, he was fast asleep in his window seat wearing his Bose headset. I was stuck in the aisle seat wearing the same suit I’d been wearing all day.
9. Collect cool swag. There are usually some great giveaways at the booths but mostly junk. Why do firms insist on giving away stress balls with their logo on it? Do they really want people symbolically crushing and throwing their company around? The best giveaways I ever received were a utility tool and a backpack that I won. As a guy who has manned many booths, there’s nothing worse than the guy who pretends to be interested just to get your free stuff. Just take it and do everyone a favor. If you need a break come by our Booth C2413 and we’ll have a place for you to chill, practice your golf skills on our putting green, and grab an energy drink. We’ll also give you a Survival Kit like mine (only available to the first 250). We are also giving away a Yeti cooler and you can only enter if you visit the booth. (We will be shipping this to the winner so no worries about lugging it on a plane.)
10. Follow Up is Key at ICSC. You (or your company) just spent a few thousand dollars sending you to Vegas. Within twenty-four hours of leaving make sure you send a personalized email summarizing the meeting and stating any follow up items. Some folks like to send handwritten notes. Personally, I prefer an email because it’s easier to respond, track and set reminders etc. Either way, follow up!
Hope that was helpful. See you at RECon? Click Here and fill out the form so we can get in touch and arrange a time to meet! We’ll walk you through our CREXI Commercial Real Estate Marketplace, and show you how firms like CBRE, Cushman, JLL, Colliers, HFF are leveraging CREXi to sell their listings.
Paul Cohen is a Regional Director with CREXi based in the firm’s Miami office and focused on business development in the southeast. Prior to joining CREXi, Cohen was a Managing Director specializing in investment sales and equity raises at Cohen Financial, a national debt and equity advisor. Prior to Cohen Financial, Paul owned and operated his own independent real estate firm following a 12-year tenure at CBRE where Cohen was a Senior Vice President and led the Private Client Group in Miami-Dade County with a specialty in office and industrial investment sales. Email Paul