The numbers are in, the post holiday clearance is underway and the final 2016 budget refinements are in full swing, which can only mean one thing for retail… the NRF Big Show. Yes, it is that beautifully freezing time of the year when more than 33,000 retailers, technology providers, analysts and others flock to the Jacob Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s far west side.

As you plan your trip, here are five tips to keep in mind to make it the most effective and enjoyable conference (and I should know, this will be my sixth Big Show):

  1. Pack a snack: Now I know this sounds ridiculous, but these are long days and food at the Javits is tough to come by. When you need that afternoon pick me up, come by the Demandware booth (#4103) for some fresh-dipped Godiva truffles and a cup of hot chocolate. Expert tips: On Monday morning, you can typically find donuts and coffee outside the general session hall. Go to lunch early or later in the afternoon to avoid the rush. The cafeteria is packed and finding a seat after standing in line is harder than getting a big retail CIO to take a meeting with a vendor. This year they are bringing in food trucks to supplement the options. For fun I searched “restaurants near Javits Center” and the 6th hit on Google is an article in the New York Times from 1987…No joke. 1987. (This will change for next year’s show with the opening of Hudson Yards)
  1. Preschedule time with the key vendors you want to see: The Expo Hall is massive (840,000 square feet in total) and spans multiple floors so navigating and finding vendors can prove difficult. To make the most of your time, preschedule 5-6 meetings over the 3-day conference to help you stay on schedule and gain valuable face time with vendors at the show. Expert tip: most vendors have senior executives at this show; when getting meetings scheduled, ask for time with CEOs, heads of research and development, and other executives that will help you better understand the vendor’s future and you can assess cultural and technical fit. Take a few minutes to sneak peek at the Expo Hall.
  1. Reserve time to walk the Expo Hall to learn about new technologies: the huge Expo Hall features plenty of innovations and emerging technologies. Expert tip: keep an eye on #NRF16 on Twitter to learn what’s hot from your peers, get sneak peeks of images posted by vendors and videos and commentary from the media.
  2. Enjoy your nights out in the city: From dinners to networking receptions to watching football (go Pats!) with colleagues – vendors put on world-class events for you to enjoy without any cost to you. Expert tips: On Sunday night, join us for drinks, bites and playoff football as Demandware hosts Sunday Night Football 4:30 – 7:30 pm at Iron Bar & Lounge. On Monday night, Scott Silverman hosts his famous UELP (Ultimate eCommerce Leadership Party) with a ‘who’s who’ from digital retailing. If you’re not already holding a ticket for this one you may be out of luck, as this is invite-only. Also on Monday night you can have a good time with RIS News’ Rock N’ Roll Retail event at the Hard Rock Café where Demandware will be giving away two Fender guitars.
  3. Make sure you download the Uber app: If your hotel is not supported by a shuttle bus that goes to the Javits or if you are fed up waiting in the cold in an insufferably long taxi line, make sure you have downloaded the Uber app and use it. Expert tip: beware of surge pricing that may occur around rush hour on Tuesday when everyone is looking to head home after the conference closes.Here’s to the start of a great 2016 and hope these tips help you get the most out of this year’s NRF Big Show for you, and your company. And don’t forget to come by Demandware booth #4103.