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As tens of thousands of residential construction exhibitors and professionals prep to head to Las Vegas, first-time International Builders' Show (IBS) goers may be a bit overwhelmed by the schedules, maps, and booths. To lessen the nerves and help shape a game plan, BUILDER tapped IBS veterans for advice on navigating this year’s show.

Below, learn IBS tips from Bill Ramsey, principal at KTGY; Ryan White, director of design at Dahlin; Don Neff, president at LJP Construction Services; Kevin Oakley, managing partner at Do You Convert; and Betsy Scott, executive director, and Dennis Steigerwalt, president at Housing Innovation Alliance. Collectively, the six have over 72 years of experience attending IBS—with Neff, Oakley, Ramsey, and Scott attending for more than 15 years each.

BUILDER: What are you most excited about the show this year?

Oakley: Anytime the market is tougher, the show is better. Everyone there is driven to find answers, solutions, and have a more open mind. You can tell an improvement in the overall energy from the crowd in this kind of market. Of course, reconnecting with old friends (and making new ones) is also a highlight.

Neff: The New Product Zone is usually interesting and fun.

Ramsey: This is the first IBS show back in Las Vegas since the pandemic, so I’m most looking forward to reconnecting with those professionals that I haven’t seen in a while. I like attending IBS because it’s such a large platform. At this show, you get a mix of what’s new from the exhibitors, you hear from different speakers, and have the chance to attend workshops. Size and variety are something you get with this conference that you can’t get anywhere else.

BUILDER: What are some of your best tips for navigating the exhibits and sessions?

White: Don’t feel obligated to see it all because you will be setting yourself up for failure. There are a lot of great presentations to see, and the product floor can be overwhelming. If you have time, try to figure out the top things you want to see ahead of time to be better prepared.

Steigerwalt: Plan ahead so you know where you need to be, wear the right shoes, and don't forget your phone charging cable.

Scott: Create a hit list of sessions and booths you want to visit and map which things are close together so that you can make the most of your time and your steps. Also be sure to download the IBS app. Booth numbers aren’t always where you think they’ll be, and the app’s navigation features can be helpful.

Oakley: Don't ever be afraid to vote with your feet. You aren't stuck attending a full session because you thought it would be different than it actually is. With so much happening, you owe it to yourself and your company to get to spend time in the sessions that are giving you what you need.

BUILDER: Is there a particular session you’re especially looking forward to attending?

Scott: We need to think differently about how we find and inspire new talent to join our industry, so I’m excited to hear the ideas that come out of the Learning Lab session “Punch List: 18 Ideas for Inspiring the Next Generation.”

Oakley: I'm most looking forward to this session: “The Wake-Up Call: Proven Sales Tactics for a Tough Market.” It features the two brightest minds in new-home sales (Mike Lyon and Jeff Shore) who also happen to be incredibly engaging speakers. As a marketer it might seem counterintuitive to be excited about a session about selling, but I find that the show is a fantastic way to gain exposure to complementary disciplines that ultimately allow you to accomplish your core role better.

Ramsey: One that I’m looking forward to is the “The Outlook: A Complete Guide to Housing Trends, Forecasts & Insights for 2023.” There are going to be a lot of great panelists speaking here — it will be an opportunity to hear where the industry is headed from some of its best analysts.

BUILDER: What advice would you give IBS first-timers?

White: Before you go, decide what your top six or seven things you want to see or accomplish while you are there. If you are attending with others from your organization, divide and conquer. Give yourself at least 30 to 45 minutes more than you think to get from your hotel to any functions. It might seem like you aren’t going that far, but traffic will be crazy.

Steigerwalt: Balance your days with confirmed meetings and time for targeted exploration and leave plenty of room for impromptu conversations with other attendees. I start out with more scheduled meetings on the first day and transition to a more flexible schedule toward the end of the show. Scheduling tools like Calendly work well to pin down meeting times while strategically carving out time for other activities.

Neff: For first-time exhibitors, walk the entire exhibit floor if possible and plan for full days of nonstop activity—and dress warm in the exhibit hall. Ask questions, find out how and where you and your firm can get more involved in industry events, associations, partnerships, etc. For first-time attendees, sign up for a session, check out your competition, and have fun.

Ramsey: If it’s your first time and you don’t know where to start, first look at the presentations that are on the main stage, that’s where they highlight some of the most engaging presentations and topics. Next, look to the smaller stages for more industry-specific topics. Don’t overfill your day; you want to give yourself time to walk the floor, do some networking, and leave some room to enjoy yourself.

Scott: IBS is a big show, and there are a lot of great people to connect with. Do your homework and set important meetings in advance. Pick the top 10 to 20 things you want to see or do over the course of three days and lock them in on your calendar. Be sure to include a mixture of sessions, booths, and show homes to get the full experience. Read up on the companies and have a handful of good questions in your back pocket to get the most out of each encounter. Ensure key contacts are programmed into your phone to schedule meetups on the fly and use your top 10s as locations to connect.