IRCE - Chicago The 2017 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition is upon us. (Like, really upon us. If you haven’t seen the countdown clock, check it out. As of this posting, there are 6 days, 11 hours, 3 minutes and 10 seconds until the party blasts off). From June 6-9, you can expect to find the best of internet retail technology developers, eCommerce platforms, shipping and fulfillment systems, inspirational online store owners, and a plethora of other industry wavemakers at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago. That means its time to put together a plan to make the most of your time. Here are my top ten pieces of advice to make for a kickass IRCE experience.

10.  Download the IRCE App

Download the IRCE app for iPhone or Android. This is pretty much a must-do. The app gives you an exhibitor map, a cheat sheet for speaker bios, a schedule of all the educational tracks, and most importantly – a sweet networking tool where you can find and stalk potential prospects beforehand. I’m in there. Shoot me a message!

9. It’s a Long Day. Prepare for it like you’re going off the grid forever.

Heading to a day at IRCE is much like a camo-less daytrek into the jungle. Be ready for it! Wear shoes you can walk in (Pro-tip for fancy-shoe folks: If you’re going to wear heels, don’t put them on until you’re at the booth – or maybe skip them for just once. For me, there are a finite number of steps I can take in heels and I don’t waste them getting to the destination). Avoid being the smelly kid by bringing deodorant and gum. Charge up a second (Or even a third) battery pack for your phone. Drink plenty of water. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

8.  Share All Your #IRCE17 Learnin’ on Social

Not everyone is attending the actual conference. Some of us (ahem) will be stuck in a booth for the better part of three days. But we want to learn stuff, too! If there’s something especially inspirational, I wanna retweet it! But you’ll have to share it with me first. Don’t be afraid to post insightful tidbits, quotes, stats, or photos from presentations. I hope to see you on the #IRCE17 stream.

7. Attend an Evening Event

There will be evening events sponsored by lots of exhibitors. You should find one. It’s likely some of your vendors and partners have already invited you to one. At previous conventions, I took a cruise on Lake Michigan, watched fire-dancing and stilt-walking at a Carnival-themed party, and ate a (likely expensive) delicious dinner with clients at a fancy steakhouse. These are great opportunities to grow your network and really get to know people from other areas of eCommerce.

6.  Eat Somewhere Amazing

I’m just going to come out and say that the food at the McCormick Place concessions is … not great. It’s fine if you’re in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, but not in pretty much any other scenario. Chicago is full of really great restaurants. I found this whole list of Chicago food gems on that includes veggie options, up-and-coming restaurants, Chicago-style pizza, and all the classic not-to-be-missed joints. Don’t spend every meal eating something that’s been shrink-wrapped.

5. Meet with All Your Partners

IRCE is probably the one time each year where we get an opportunity to sit down with all of our partners and get the lay of the land. They sometimes even connect us with good referrals they’ve picked up at the show. We try to crash all the booths of our favorite ESPs, hosting buddies, and shipping partners, and you should, too. Nexcess… we’re coming for ya!

4.  Check out Human Element in Booth #1687

Human Element has our first IRCE booth! It’s going to be very swanky. Come chat with us. We’ll tell you all about our new Digital Marketing offering and what exciting Magento 2 sites we’ve just launched.

3. Hit the B2B Pre-Conference Workshop on Tuesday

It’s no secret that B2B is a hot topic in eCommerce. If you’re thinking about launching a B2B presence, this pre-conference workshop on Tuesday is probably for you. It’s slated to include sessions on how to become a B2B eCommerce company, including fulfillment, marketing and website design and usability.

2. OR Hit the Direct to Consumer Post-Conference Workshop on Friday

If you’re a manufacturer looking to take your product direct-to-consumer for the first time, this workshop will give you the lay of the land. Topics will include gaining more control of your brand, getting direct feedback from customers and and learning how to manage the new dynamic of your relationships with retail partners.

1. Connect

Business cards get lost. Your best chance to real networking is to actually connect with the people you meet there. Be memorable, or take the extra step to reach out via email or LinkedIn after a good meeting. You might not necessarily need a new contact’s service at this moment – and they might not need yours – but good connections (let’s call them “friends”) will drive your business forward. IRCE gives you the opportunity to build strong relationships with some of the best people in the industry. Take advantage of it.

See you in Chicago, party people. You can probably find me and three of my favorite Human Element humans in Booth #1687. We can’t wait!