Industry events have returned, and they’re more important than ever. Are you getting what you need to succeed?
We had hoped for a return to ‘normal’; however, mounting food costs, labour challenges and supply chain frustrations continue to dog this indomitable industry we all know and love. In spite of it all–and against increasingly tough odds –new restaurants continue to open and many tenured venues continue to bring back patrons. As we look to the road ahead, it’s clear that coming together, learning and collaborating is only more important than it was during the pandemic. We need to innovate as the challenges are not yet behind us. Whether you attend industry shows, conferences and symposiums virtually or in person over the coming year, getting out there to renew and forge new connections and welcome new ideas will be important to every foodservice and hospitality professional. The value of these exchanges and events can be optimized by your approach.
How to get the most out of industry events: Before you go…
Before registering for an event, make sure your needs and style of operation are reflected in the schedule and speaker roster. While any presentation or session could spark an insight or new idea that fits your business, if you are facing specific challenges, relevance and a focused theme will provide greater tactical value.
Doing a little research and creating a customized program and schedule before attending can help you focus your purpose and improve your results. Keynote presentations are ideal for big ideas and influential content, but smaller working sessions or highly-focused presentations can provide tactical and immediately actionable strategies and insights. If you are attending with colleagues, fan out to cover more ground and make plans to debrief and share intel once you return to your workplace.
Join and monitor event social pages to find other companies or professionals who plan to attend. Don’t be shy. Industry events are as much about networking and one-on-one connections as they are about content. Reach out and set up in-event meetings with people you would like to connect with and/or learn from, and be open to any requests that may come your way from other attendees. Be sure not to overlook opportunities to reconnect with customers as well as current or past colleagues and professional contacts.
While you’re there…
Show up early and bring your gear.
The early bird avoids long lineups and gets the advantage of knowing the lay of the land in advance. Be sure to bring your computer and phone chargers, business cards and any promotional info pieces you may need. While most conferences have digital contact scanning in place, personalized materials can help you stand out, position yourself or your business and aid contact recall.
Put yourself out there.
Conferences and events are one of the rare opportunities where direct outreach and connection are not only welcomed and encouraged, but expected by most attendees. Don’t wait for the “perfect chance”, find an opening, introduce yourself and be clear about the nature of your interest in connecting. Be sure to exchange contact information and, if you promise to follow up, be sure to do so.
Follow and engage with event social media pages.
Especially for large events like RC Show, you can miss a lot if you’re not staying socially connected. To expose yourself to new contacts and opportunities, take part in the event discussion on social media and lend your voice and perspective. Monitor social media to follow the discussion, learn about any limited-time opportunities like giveaways or free tickets to paid in-event sessions and find out about last-minute schedule changes.
Stay organized and do your homework.
Bring a folio or notebook to collect and record information, post-event resources and downloads and new contacts. Events are busy and frenetic, so be sure your notes are clear and detailed enough to ensure you can remember the source and context. Most importantly, review your notes and follow-up materials at your earliest opportunity and note any “to-dos” in your schedule so the opportunities don’t melt into your busy life upon your return.