It only seems fit that I apply my straightforward tendencies to my personal review of NRF PROTECT 2023. As a first timer at NRF PROTECT—and, for that matter, traveling solo, attending a business event, meeting colleagues in person, and several other things—I feel that sharing my honest experience can be insightful for other new comers, and compelling as I share fresh perspectives. Because NRF PROTECT is such a large, impactful, and educational event, there was a lot to take in and certainly a lot to take away.
Being that I have only been with the magazine for just under two months, my goal going into the conference was simply to be present and soak in as much as I could. As I previously mentioned, this was the first trade show I’ve ever attended, so the expectations I had prior to were pretty ordinary and quite vague; however, I can confidently say the overall experience had exceeded my expectations. Now, where to begin…
First Thing’s First
Pulling up to the Gaylord left me in awe—I’ve never been to such a grand hotel! Walking through the main entrance, I felt extremely privileged; but beyond that, I felt grateful. I have to admit, I was considerably intimidated by the impressive scene and the professionals that filled the space.
I was quick to learn that there was no reason to feel intimidated by the general crowd. As my colleague Jac Brittain and I walked around, I met some new faces, and every one of them left me feeling welcomed. Later on at the opening party, I continued to feel more comfortable after speaking with other pleasant people.
As Tuesday morning rolled around, I dived right in. I started the day at the “Tackling ORC Through Legislative Partnerships and Priorities” session, followed by “A Conversation with Board Chairman of the NRF and Walmart CEO John Furner” then straight into “Meet-Up at the Mall: Building Partnerships to Maximize the Ability to Protect People and Assets.”
As someone who has a passion for public speaking, I was completely fascinated watching the developed speakers display such confidence, articulation, knowledge, and passion. I truly felt inspired, especially by NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.
One of the main takeaways for me during these sessions was the importance of collaboration as ORC continues to increase. Involving partners and collaborating to minimize the violence that we see everyday by brainstorming innovative new ideas—such as Lowe’s power tool activation concept, known as Project Unlock—is vital. Thinking one step ahead and outside of the box is important, but ensuring the basics of security and safety are being executed is equally as important. Another interesting aspect of the conversation was the importance of assuring employees that their efforts and work are valued, and asking questions like “How are we making sure our associates are practicing self-care when facing adversity?”
Work Hard, Play Hard
After a few educational sessions, I made my way over to the expo and was delighted seeing the booth tablecloth and banners I had the opportunity to design. Being able to network with professionals was exciting, and helped me expand my knowledge on different solution providers.
The day went on and after attending a few more sessions, the LPM and LPF team enjoyed a fabulous dinner. My suggestions to any first-time business diners would be this: avoid embarrassment by finding out the price of the meal you’re ordering! Save yourself from being “that guy” whose order was half the bill—yikes! Following dinner, we made our way over to THE Party, hosted by Wicklander-Zulawski, where we enjoyed drinks, dancing, and games.
As the final day rolled around, I attended “Fostering Innovation: How Retailers Can Create an Environment to Innovate” followed by “Is the Future of Security Locked in Technology?” and lastly “Preventing Violence…SOONER.” In the first session, Andrew Laudato covered an interesting concept. He presented Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid, and applied the same concept to retail safety. He went on to say that if we don’t have the base layer of retail safety nailed down, we cannot move up the pyramid to focus on other things. Having a psychology background, this spoke to me in a profound way.
I had lots of time to conclude what I’d suggest to myself for next year’s PROTECT conference as I sat on my plane for two and a half hours before it took off (thank you, inconvenient weather). In summary those thoughts were:
1. Relax. The overall big picture is much more important than what outfit you’ll be wearing.
2. Go into each session with an open mind. I had a preconception that every session would be covering the same topic but was proven wrong. I was pleasantly delighted to find out that each session had its own angle, and interesting facts differed from the one before.
3. Continue to value your professionalism and pride in your company. Many of us have worked hard to get to where we are today, so honor that!
Overall, my first NRF PROTECT was a huge success, from meeting my wonderful team, to gaining heaps of retail knowledge. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to have been involved, and I am already looking forward to seeing everyone next year in Long Beach, California as we gather (again) for NRF PROTECT 2024.