Weekly Editorial

The Top 5 Industry Events (and Why You Should Start Planning for Them Now)

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Write Office • January 23, 2023

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Scientist Matthew Lieberman’s book “Social” makes the case for our need as humans to connect with one another — that it is as fundamental as our need for food and water.

In an interview with Scientific American, he said: “Across many studies of mammals, from the smallest rodents all the way to us humans, the data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed. When this happens in childhood it can lead to long-term health and educational problems. We may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but the facts are the facts.”

The book was written in 2013, long before we could ever imagine the social isolation caused by the pandemic. But we’ve all learned that lesson the hard way during the pandemic. Connecting is critical. As you read this column, I’ll be at the BIFMA 360 Conference, one of the most important events on the commercial interiors calendar, though one that might get overlooked by some.

It is a meeting for industry leaders, a place for them to connect and unwind in a serious but casual atmosphere. The 360 is one of the best events for connecting with leadership in the industry. This one will be over Wednesday, but make sure to watch for 2024 dates and get it on your schedule now.

So what are some of the other must-attend industry events? In this column, I’ll outline the industry’s most important reoccurring events along with a brief description, who should attend and why it is important. We’ve already covered the 360, so let’s get to the rest (it might help to have your planner handy). We are going to stick to the top 5 (with one taken care of above) in this column and I’m going to arrange them in chronological order, not necessarily importance.

The Event: Salone del Mobile.Milano – April 18-23, 2023
What it’s about: iSalone is one of Europe’s most important industry events. While NeoCon is about products and connections, iSalone is about discovery. Split between the fairgrounds, it has a more traditional furniture show feel and with hundreds of individual events happening around Milan, iSalone sets the tone for the workplace of the future.

Who should attend: Interior designers, product designers, executives.

Why it’s important: The office of the future is found here. Europe tends to lead the industry in design trends — both the sublime and the goofy — and both can be found at iSalone. We like how ideas are presented here. It is an artistic expression of the commercial interior.

The Event: Clerkenwell Design Week – May 23-25, 2023
What it’s about: This show, held annually in the Clerkenwell neighborhood of London, might fly under the radar for many in the North American office furniture market, but it shouldn’t. Clerkenwell has the highest concentration of design firms of any neighborhood in the world. Commercial furniture makers followed them there and opened showrooms. And during a week in May, they throw open their doors and invite designers in. By “in” I mean designers flock to the neighborhood, which becomes one big block party when the business ends around 4 p.m.

Who should attend: Interior designers, product designers, those looking to connect with European brands.

Why it’s important: If you want to discover the next “cool” brand coming out of Europe, Clerkenwell is for you. I’ve heard of many North American manufacturers who have discovered brands at Clerkenwell to partner with for distribution here.

The Event: NeoCon – June 12-14, 2023
What it’s about: It is the big daddy of them all. Simply put, it is the most important event on the commercial interiors calendar. Hundreds of exhibitors at theMART in Chicago gather to show off their lastest thinking and new products to 50,000 attendees over the course of two and a half days in June.

Who should attend: Everyone. NeoCon is a must-attend event if you work in the commercial interiors industry.

Why it’s important: It is where new ideas meet real-life projects. NeoCon isn’t a show for order taking, but it is hugely important for its role in connecting the A&D community to new products and new thinking.

The Event: Orgatec – Oct. 22-26, 2024
What it’s about: This is one to put on your long-term radar as the event is held every other year in Cologne, Germany (and it was held last October). Orgatec is like a blend of NeoCon and iSalone. It has the seriousness of NeoCon and the artistic and creative aspects of the Milan show.

Who should attend: Interior designers. Those looking for design trends from Europe.

Why it’s important: I love Orgatec because it is the one show where brands tend to show you what they are thinking. Like concept cars in the auto industry, Orgatec exhibitors blend products they have now and products that might be released. It is a great way to gauge the design trends coming from Europe. It is where I first saw benching and the “phone booth” products that have become so popular.

So get out there and connect, at least as much as you feel comfortable with. Making connections with others isn’t just important — it’s imperative.

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