On the last week of June Dan Balow and I attended the 2016 International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in Cincinnati. It was my 35th consecutive year attending…which only means I’m old…
By now you may have heard some reports regarding the low attendance, which are true. There were only 2,114 registered attendees, nearly a 30% drop from last year. Fortunately the convention hall was the right size for the event. We didn’t feel like we were swimming in an ocean of empty space.
A few observations from my perspective as a literary agent, which is admittedly different than the perspective of a retailer or publisher or author.
1) Every single meeting we had was invaluable to our agency and to our clients. Unfortunately there were fewer than in past years. We made some invaluable connections simply because were were in a face-to-face meeting and not as slammed by time restraints.
2) With the convention center being one block away from the major hotels it was easy to get from an appointment on the sales floor to an appointment at a hotel and back again without having to sprint or cut short a meeting. It has been years since it was this convenient.
3) There were fewer editors in attendance which was disappointing. But again, those we did see were invigorating meetings. Very few fiction editors were there partly because the Christy Awards were done differently this year and there wasn’t the normal draw for novelists and their publishers.
4) There is no other place or event where the entire industry gathers at the same time. I enjoy walking slowly through the various exhibitor displays, no matter how big or small, just to see the variety in products and ideas. Non-book products can be instructive in predicting trends in the market and in design.
5) It was a delight to attend an early Monday morning SpeakUp breakfast, hosted by Gene and Carol Kent (Carol sporting a sling for her broken arm…let Gene tell you that story.) Despite the three hour time difference in my body clock it was great to hear many inspirational stories from some of our industry’s best speakers and writers.
6) “Hallway Conversations” are also invaluable. These are those unscheduled discussions that occur just because you are in attendance. Sometimes they can have big dividends in the future.
7) Thanks to a generous invitation from Carl Dobrowolski of Goodwill Rights Management Corp. over a dozen of us attended a nighttime Cubs vs. Reds baseball game at the Great American Ballpark (formerly Riverfront Stadium). We saw major league baseball history that night when Kris Bryant hit three home runs and two doubles. Something never done before in a single game in baseball history! So while that had nothing to do with our industry, it was great to make some new industry friends.
I count the event as a success. It would be easy to complain about attendance and modest appointment opportunities, but the valuable meetings we did have made up for quantity with quality.
Next year it will be in Cincinnati again from June 28-30, 2017 (Wednesday-Friday).