You probably already know that I’m headed once again up to NYC for ICFF in about a week (wow, that crept up fast…). Be sure to follow Design Milk on Twitter to keep up with me while I’m there, where I’m at and who I’m meeting. What you may not know, though, is that in June, I’m headed to NeoCon in Chicago. It’s going to be my first time at the World’s Trade Fair, where I’ll get to browse over 700 showrooms and exhibitors. Phew! I’m gonna need my walking shoes!

If you have a recommendation for places we should see while in Chi-town, leave me a comment or send me an email. For my whole trip, I’m staying at the super-luxe Amalfi Hotel, which I’m also pretty excited about.

Anyway, I wanted to share some cool info about the partnership between MMPI, publicly traded owner of 18 properties and over 300 shows in 11 industries, and 3-year old tech start-up DesignerPages.com co-founded by high school friends Jacob Slevin and Avi Flombaum. Designer Pages has been a big supporter of Design Milk over the past year and we hope to really get to know them much better while we’re there.

With the newly redesigned Neocon.com (designed in collaboration with Rus Yusupov of Manhattan-based digital creative agency Commercial Pop) Designer Pages, and MMPI are working to bridge the physical and digital experience of the show. The process of sourcing products in person (i.e., picking out samples, collecting brochures, etc.) now integrates far more seamlessly with the online experience by way of an online product catalog and workspaces that replicate all products showing on the floor.

This is the first time ever that NeoCon has made all products showing available online to the community by way of its own website. This means that attendees can log on to My NeoCon (launching soon) and browse products in advance of the show and share them with colleagues and friends via NeoCon Guides.

NeoCon, Designer Pages and MMPI in main home furnishings  Category

They are also trying to reshape the dinosaur lead-generation model of trade shows: Gone are the days of an excel sheet 2,000 names long with zero recognition of who the person was or what they were interested in. Their new NeoCon.com Customer Relationship Manager (CRM), powered by DesignerPages.com, will be able to gather salient public information about attendees like what friends they have in common on Facebook, the ability to automatically connect via industry peers on LinkedIn, direct message them on Twitter, even learn what projects they have worked on in the past and what websites they visit for industry-related news. Creepy, yet way better than sending info to people who aren’t interested, or on the flip side, getting info that you don’t want!

And, lastly, they are trying to democratize the conversation about design: NeoCon Live is the show’s virtual press room and the design community’s one-stop shop for all news about NeoCon. Aggregating live editorial content from design blogs, tweets, photos and videos, NeoCon Live will serve as a single platform wherein both new bloggers and internationally recognized magazine editors can contribute content side by side in one place where everyone’s opinion matters. More fun developments are in the works for 2011, but I’m excited now just writing about NeoCon 2010. Can’t wait to show you what I find!

Remember, if you’re going to be at NeoCon as an exhibitor or attendee get in touch. Also, if you’re a native to Chicago, shoot me an email about where to go/what to see/what to do (and more importantly, where to eat)!