How to Make your NRF BIG Show a Success

22 Dec 2016

Retail converges on New York City every January for National Retail Federation’s BIG Show, a must-attend for many in the industry. There is a lot to take in in a short time, so it pays to plan out how to make the most of this year’s show, January 15-17.

Months Ahead

Visit the BIG show site and check out the agenda, exhibitors and costs, to help determine who to send. Register early and reserve hotel rooms before the best ones go. Consider arriving in time for the RetailROI Retail Orphan Initiative SuperSaturday.

While you are registering reserve a lunch or two for a Retailer Meet-Up, where you can talk to other retailers on any of 15-20 different topics, guided by industry leaders.

Weeks Ahead

Look through the show’s website, which will be much more detailed now. Check out keynotes, educational tracks, events, speakers and who is exhibiting. Assign team members to attend specific sessions and take notes to share.

Balance job-specific learning with big picture sessions. For example, attend the Retail Track sessions but also see what astronaut Scott Kelly has to say.

Set aside time to walk the exhibit hall. NRF says 59% of attendees spend six hours or more on the show floor, and that’s for good reason – there is a lot to see. If you don’t mind missing a keynote you will find an empty floor full of vendors eager for your time. Another slow period: the last hours of the show. Be sure to visit the big hitters: SAP, Microsoft, Intel, etc. – and of course, Level 10 in Booth #XXXX -- to see what is new and exciting, but don't forget to visit the smaller players as well...they might even have what the big boys are offering in a more affordable solution – or bring new fresh ideas to the table.

Reach out to vendors you want to spend time with in advance. Set up appointments that don’t conflict with the sessions that are most important to you.

After show hours, there are tons of parties, receptions, tours, events, etc. View the evening as an extension of the event and make plans strategically.

Lead-Up Week

Get a lot of rest. NRF days can start at 6 am and extend past midnight. Pack comfortable shoes.

Create a cheat sheet, a bulleted list of key objectives and critical contacts to make and exhibitors you must visit to refer to, maybe on your phone.

Show Time

Picking up credentials at a satellite location will speed your arrival at the show. Review daily appointments and your cheat sheet each day. In addition to structured events, seek out networking opportunities in the aisles and at sessions. Make and seek introductions. Collect and share contact info freely, and make a few notes to help you remember conversations. Check in with colleagues daily to compare notes and shift plans. Create action items for after the show. Hydrate and don’t forget to eat.

Be sure to visit the new Technology Hub in the NRF Clubhouse (in the River Pavilion on level 4 of the Javits), where you should also visit the iLab, which this year will be focusing on 3D printing, AI, AR/VR, drones, robotics and wearables.


Follow up on action items. Review accomplishments versus objectives and share that data with colleagues. Add new contacts to your personal database and LinkedIn.

Done right, a visit to a content-packed event like the BIG show can provide a lot of value in a very short time. Taking steps to plan the experience is the best way to get the most out of your trip. See you in the Big Apple!