The Progressive Real Estate Partners (PREP) team just returned from the ICSC RECon15 convention and what an amazing show! Attendance topped 36,000 and the excitement and energy amongst the attendees was contagious. The jam-packed four day event included networking, educational sessions, inspirational speakers (including Peyton Manning and John Maxwell) and numerous receptions and parties. The PREP team shared a booth space with our Retail Brokers Network colleagues and there was a constant flow of meetings and deal making.

I always return from the annual convention with a renewed appreciation of the shopping center industry AND with lots of new ideas and inspiration. Here are some of “my takeaways” from this year’s show:

• Deals, Deals, Deals: It seemed like everyone was working on a DEAL. When I asked people what they thought of the conference, I saw SMILES that I haven’t seen in years. Developers, brokers, retailers, and others are clearly enjoying the benefits of an improving global economy.

• New Blood: Our office had 3 new brokers at the conference. I was also introduced to a lot of attendees who were new to the business and also at the conference for the first time. This is definitely a positive indicator for the industry.

• Old Blood: I reconnected with a number of people that I had not seen in many years. They were attending the conference to source deals, rekindle relationships, and stay current on today’s trends.

• Better Architecture: Creating a “sense of place” is more important than ever. Gone are the days of just developing shopping centers with anemic design. Today’s design must create a place where people want to go and explore and where retailers want to locate.

• Personal Interaction Still Matters: Despite all the technology, personal contact still matters. I met with many people who I could have just as easily called but meeting with them face-to-face and having a great conversation builds relationships and leads to ideas that otherwise would not be achieved.

• Technology is Great: Tablets were prolific. Social media utilized more than ever. Texting was useful. ICSC’s mobile app was very helpful. Hard to imagine how we ever did this conference without these tools. Technology relieved stress and our backs. You could change, add or cancel appointments with a quick text. Also, many avoided bringing LOIs, site plans, and brochures by uploading them on their tablets.

Now, if only we could make an app to cure those sore feet.