At Hartman Simons, many of us are packing our bags for Vegas. While we think the highlight of the entire ICSC conference will be our party Sunday night, there are just a few other things happening at the retail real estate conference. We caught up with Jesse Tron, who handles media relations for ICSC, earlier this week. Despite it being a hugely busy week for him, Jesse took the time to answer four questions and provide us the inside scoop on this year’s ICSC RECon show.

Jesse TronHS: What is gong to be different about the conference this year?  

 JT: There are a few changes to note for RECon 2011. Perhaps the most noticeable change is the show hours.  Last year the Trade Show and Leasing Mall floors opened on Sunday. We got a lot of feedback in various forms from our attendees and the most noticeable thing that stood out was they did not like having the floors open on Sunday. So this year, we are going back to the previous format and the show will open on Monday. The conference will still begin Sunday, but it will be a day dedicated exclusively to educational sessions and networking opportunities. 

Last year we introduced a new format to the show floor by integrating the Leasing Mall and Trade Exposition, creating a more comprehensive total show experience. The same will hold true this year. What's brand new is the addition of Meeting Point Pavilions strategically located throughout the show floor that will provide attendees with a location to take a quick break, grab some food and, in some locations, sit in on a 20-minute Power Session which will provide quick and valuable take-home knowledge about the industry.

We are also improving the efficiency with which our attendees are able to navigate the show floor. This year we are improving overall signage, adding floor decals that will provide conference goers with the most advantageous route to and through the different halls, introducing a new walkway from the back of the Central Hall to the back of the South Hall which will include tram service, and rolling out an improved mobile app featuring floor plans, updated schedules and more. 

Lastly I would like to note that, for the first-time ever, we are offering a one-day pass for Sunday's networking and educational sessions.

HS: What are a couple of highlights we should make sure we check out this year?

JT: In addition to the activity on the deal-making floors, you won’t want to miss the many educational opportunities.  The keynote sessions will be delivered by Howard Schultz, president and CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company, and General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and presidential candidate.

Additionally, Dana Carvey, comedian, will host the ICSC Foundation Gala which takes place on May 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Bellagio Hotel Ballroom, and Carson Kressley, actor and fashion designer, will host the Hot Retailer Award-New and Future Retail Concepts ceremony May 24 at the Las Vegas Convention Center from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

HS: A lot of people come to ICSC mostly to network. Any new opportunities there?

JT: In 2011 we are offering more networking opportunities than ever before and that kicks off on Sunday with a special networking session and brunch. Later in the day we will once again offer Special Interest Groups, or SIGs, which provide a unique opportunity to become part of a global network of industry professionals that share similar disciplines. You will have the ability to share your thoughts on new initiatives and best practices, all while networking with fellow industry peers. At 5 p.m. there will be a SIGs reception to conclude the day. On Tuesday we are also introducing a new concept called the Public Marketplace Breakfast, which will allow attendees to rent their own tables to conduct their morning appointments. This new concept will run from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and breakfast and a concierge service are provided with the table.

HS: How many attendees are you expecting?  How does that compare with last year?

JT: Registration is currently running ahead of last year and we are expecting 30,000 attendees.