Editor’s Note: This article appears in My Resource Library’s June issue of Delve Magazine

NeoCon is here again. And thank goodness! This is the time when the commercial interiors industry comes together to celebrate achievements, showcase innovative ways of thinking, explore new products, and of course, rekindle relationships and make new connections.

This is all great. But on a deeper level, what are we really doing at NeoCon?    

Approaching NeoCon with curiosity

When we meet old friends in THE MART’s jam-packed elevators, we’re curious and asking good questions. “How are you? How’s your job? What showrooms have you been to? What is catching your eye?”  

When we attend one of the many awesome learning sessions, we come with an open mind, ready to absorb all we can. We’re taking copious notes. We’re snapping pictures of the presentation to retain the information. We’re listening intently. 

When we tour the beautifully designed showrooms to view the amazing new products, we’re using a multitude of critical thinking skills. Will this product work for my project or a future project? Can I get that seat cushion in a different fabric option? How many finishes does that surface come in? Is this product going to be better than the one I usually specify? And the list goes on. 

“the best sales and marketing people are being transparent and authentic”

For brands exhibiting at NeoCon, their sales and marketing people are deploying a multitude of high-level skills too. They are acting as educators; they are expertly explaining how their products work, how they solve a challenge, or how they make things better. They are seeking to gain more information; they’re inquiring about what the designer does, and what he or she works on. They are curious and inquisitive; they’re seeking to determine whether or not the product they offer can indeed support that designer’s needs. They are being empathetic; they’re listening intently to the designer’s challenges. And more importantly, the best sales and marketing people are being transparent and authentic; they’re not speaking in platitudes or obfuscating facts. Instead, they are being completely truthful about the brand. They’re pulling back the curtain to talk about their sustainable manufacturing or their realistic lead times. They are being honest with every answer.

What is your brand doing to build trust?

So what does all this lead to? In short, it leads to building trust, the most powerful thing humans can create. Trust is why people do business with you. It’s why people come to your parties or events. It’s why people follow you on social media. It’s why people want to connect with you. And it’s also why people will defend you when you make a mistake. 

We are fortunate to work in an industry with curious and inquisitive people. And, there are so many in our industry who are uniquely authentic, transparent and willing to share their expertise in a beneficial way for the greater good. For many of us, building trust is in our DNA. 

“Trust is why people do business with you.”

But for the brands (not the people) exhibiting at NeoCon, I have a challenge. Is your brand doing everything it can to build even greater trust?  We live in an ever-increasing digital world, where connecting in-person (aside from NeoCon and other industry shows) is falling by the wayside. It’s clear that Zoom meetings now take the place of what used to be in-person meetings.  Add to this the growth of generative AI, which is blurring the lines between human-made vs. machine-made, and there is a real challenge.  

Meaningful connections means a richer experience

Now more than ever, brands need to strengthen their trust level. So, the challenge for brands becomes: How can you listen to your customers better? How can you be even more authentic and transparent? And how can you share your expertise in a more meaningful and educational way (hint: not salesy)?  

So, what are we doing here at NeoCon? Yes, we’re connecting, learning, sharing and having a great time. But on a deeper level – because this is a business/industry event, after all – we’re also consciously or subconsciously establishing, strengthening, or in some cases, losing trust. The people and the brands who place an emphasis on building trust will have a much richer NeoCon experience. And the people and the brands who invest and commit to this long-term, will stand to gain even more benefits farther down the road.  

Have fun in Chicago!  I trust you will all have a great NeoCon!

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