NeoCon 2021 Live and In-Person

Registration for NeoCon 2021 will open online on June 8th at The re-emergence of NeoCon, live and in-person after the pandemic shutdown, will run from October 4-6.

The exhibition will feature the products and new product launches from approximately 500 brands and my personal favorite, The Best of NeoCon competition. Plus there will be world-class programming, unique and novel installations, such as a Danish design exhibit, Metropolis’ Sustainability lab and a new version of the River Drive Park sponsored by Haworth.

The programming will include NeoCon’s usual high-quality daily keynotes and this year they will be presented live onsite and also streamed to all registrants. There will also be a new virtual CEU series. If there’s one thing COVID-19 has taught us, it’s how to produce online events.

Byron Morton. Photo courtesy of theMART

Understanding that some people may feel a bit of residual hesitance to attend a huge public event, even though vaccination is progressing apace and President Biden has said he’s confident we’ll be able to congregate freely as early as July 4th, theMART has stated, “Measures and protocols will be in place to address any necessary city, state or CDC guidelines in October and to provide participants with a high level of confidence attending NeoCon 2021.

“theMART recently received GBAC Star accreditation, the gold standard of prepared facilities and the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recover accreditation.  The building’s hospital grade air filtration and circulation as well as enhanced cleaning protocols exceed industry standards.  In addition, low contact registration, monitored elevator service, a modified expo hall layout, optimized outdoor space, hybrid programming and a new online event platform will enhance show-goer comfort.”

Byron Morton, vice president of leasing at theMART, remarks, “It is more important than ever to bring our community back together in-person to share ideas, knowledge, innovations and

inspiration on how we can collectively design our return to offices and other shared spaces. There is so much to catch up on, it’s going to be a wonderfully productive reunion!”

Scenes fro NeoCon 2019 – the last time we all met there. Photos courtesy of theMART

I recently talked to Mr. Morton and Lisa Simonian, vice president of marketing, about planning for NeoCon and other topics of interest.

Bob Beck (BB): Salone del Mobile Milano has announced that the Milan Fair will be held in September, but they are getting pushback from manufacturers, who say they don’t want the expense of exhibiting in September only to turn around and repeat that expense next April. Are you getting any pushback of that nature?

Byron Morton (BM): “I think a key difference between us and Salone is that our tenants are already here. They’ve invested the capital and their spaces are ready to go. We’re expecting full participation, but we are going to operate with the 7th floor at about 60% of its former capacity. We’ve widened the main core aisles by 20 feet and we’ve widened all the aisles a bit. We did that on the suspicion that after this year of restrictions people are going to want everything to feel a little more spacious. So with that caveat, we are almost sold out for the space available.”

“We now – finally, have people touring the building again. After a year of masks and restrictions people are dying to just get back to normal. So we think NeoCon in October is going to be a great opportunity for some of that pent-up energy and demand to be satisfied.

BB: Let’s talk about some rumors I’ve been hearing about everybody moving out of theMART. The latest companies I’ve heard are Teknion and Steelcase. Tell me.

BM: “So Teknion is moving out after the first of the year. They’ve taken space at 800 West Fulton, right across the street from Knoll. We really hate to see them go, but we wish them all the best.”

“The Steelcase rumor is just that – a rumor.”

BB: “When I visited you just before the lockdown you showed me the former Herman Miller space under construction to build out new showrooms for Momentum Textiles, Bernhardt Design and Ethnicraft. Bernhardt’s coming back after a couple of years outside, that seems a good sign.”

BM: “The showroom occupancy in the building is about 92%, which is a little lower than we’re used to, but by real estate standards it’s pretty damned good. We continue to hear from designers and architects that they like bringing clients to theMART because it’s such an efficient use of theirs and their clients’ time, and frankly, there are plenty of companies that agree that being in theMART is good for their business.”

BB: Lisa, tell me about the Best of NeoCon. You know how much I love that event.

Lisa Simonian. Photo courtesy of theMART

Lisa Simonian (LS): “Submissions for the Best of NeoCon will open June 1st. We’re very excited about the plans so far. We’re going to be doing a lot of showcasing of entrants’ submissions and we have a whole new promotional framework for the Best of NeoCon winners.

“We’ve been working closely with Eileen McMorrow, of McMorrow Reports and longtime Best of NeoCon manager, as well as a number of other industry leaders, to rethink, update and expand Best of NeoCon, while preserving its core strengths and its influence as one of the most highly regarded awards programs for the commercial interiors industry. We’re excited to launch the new iteration and celebrate the 2021 Best of NeoCon winners at the show in October.”

All Best of NeoCon entries will be evaluated by a diverse jury of architects, designers, specifiers and facility managers. These industry leaders have expertise that spans workplace, healthcare, institutional and hospitality sectors.

Jury recruitment is currently underway. Interested trade professionals who would like to serve as a juror (and who have not served before) can send an email to with firm, title, and full contact details to receive an invitation to be considered as a juror. Please note that just sending the email doesn’t mean you will, in fact, be a juror! There is a selection process that takes into consideration the mix of professionals needed.

Product submissions will open on June 1 and close on September 9. Exhibitors may enter any new products introduced to the U.S. market since NeoCon 2019. More details can be found on the NeoCon website here. 

I’ll definitely be there. I’ve sort of lost track but I think this will be #44 or 45 for me and I happily admit that I love seeing the new products, the updated showrooms, the keynotes and seminars. But after this many years what I love the most is seeing so many of my industry friends and acquaintances. I know how diligently the NeoCon team has been working with industry leaders and also with the City of Chicago to make this NeoCon a real celebration after the pandemic shutdown, so let’s celebrate with them! I look forward to seeing you there.