NeOConnect: Through the Eyes of the Planner

By: Melissa Wehrberg
Interior Designer

About the Author:

Melissa is an Interior Designer for Ware Malcomb.  She is an associate member of International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and Co-Director for the Orange County City Center of IIDA’s Southern California Chapter. Melissa has headed and served on several committees, including those for the Haute Couture Fashion Show and NeoConnect. In her role as Co-Director, she is responsible for holding monthly meetings, design tours, Continuing Education Units, and more, to keep the IIDA community excited and involved.

The IIDA Orange County NeoConnect took place on October 14, 2014 at The Hangar, OC Fair Grounds.  Having attended NeoConnect for many years now, experiencing it through the lens of the planner was eye opening.  Every year, industry vendors look forward to NeoConnect as the premier event opportunity to display their new products to designers and architects. Vendors strategize their booths with which items to display, how to present them, and how to attract the right target audience.

For designers, especially those who did not have the opportunity to attend NeoCon in Chicago, NeoConnect is a great chance to see all of the new products for the upcoming year in one place.  As a designer, it is expected that vendors will bring their best products and it is all for you!  But what you might not necessarily know about, is all the background planning that goes into making an event like this a huge success.


The first committee meeting happens months before NeoConnect even becomes a thought in anyone else’s minds.  We begin planning the who, what, where, when and how of it all, and of course, the theme.  Event chairs are selected, committees are set in place, and people hit the ground running so we can ensure that this will be the most successful NeoConnect yet.


As with all events in life, some things may not go according to plan.  In our case, the preferred date for the venue became unavailable.  Despite this minor setback, a Taco Tuesday theme was born!   Although not our original theme, Taco Tuesday turned out to be a lot of fun and a big success!  The next step was the launch of the floorplan and then came the flood of emails for booth requests.  While the requests are coming in, there are minute-by-minute updates of the plan, launching and re-launching it on the site to keep the floorplan as updated as possible. After the puzzle of a floor plan is finally filled,  the event is SOLD OUT!



The big day arrives and all of the planning comes to fruition!  You find yourself on site ready to tackle any last minute emergencies. With your walkie-talkie at the ready, you walk the floor, inquiring vendors in search for which booth is theirs and what time they have to be done setting up. Simple questions that are minor in comparison to what could potentially arise, but fortunately and thankfully, we find ourselves in the clear.

The event begins and designers, students and architects begin to arrive. The venue fills with familiar faces, laughter, and chatter.  What was once a test of nerves, quickly turns to calm, as you realize that you and your teammates have created a great and successful event.  You wander through the aisles of the booths, checking on staff, vendors, and guests, making sure everyone is happy, and of course, taking time to look at the vendors’ offerings.  Once you’ve taken hold of the steering wheel, you no longer see NeoConnect from a spectator’s point-of-view.  Realizing how much time, energy and preparation is involved; you appreciate it so much more.










Melissa Wehrberg
Ware Malcomb Irvine
Interior Designer