Our startup’s team returned last week from exhibiting at Expo West, the largest trade show on the West Coast for natural and high-end food products. In January, I had the chance to attend my first food industry trade show: the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. If you’re like me, and these huge food product expos are new to you, these lessons might help you get the most out of the experience:
1) Be prepared
Know why you’re going to the conference. I went to meet other entrepreneurs, get a sense of how these large food industry trade shows work, and to scope out the Bay Area food entrepreneurship landscape. Given those goals, my highest priority was to build relationships. I emailed a few people I knew I wanted to meet in an effort to set up coffee dates. I also looked through the list of exhibitors, filtering for Washington state and Oregon companies. I also made sure to note any exhibitors that I had met before. I made this list in a spreadsheet and printed it out. Next time, I would sort this list according to the booth number before printing it. Then you can look for these exhibitors systematically as you snake through each conference hall.
2) If you have a product, stash samples in a messenger bag
I brought samples of my employer’s product with me and after meeting a person, gave them a sample if they seemed interested in the product. When I sent follow up emails, these people always enthusiastically mentioned how they liked the sample.
3) Get contact info and follow up
If you have a conversation with someone and have a reason to keep in touch, don’t be shy about asking for their business card. Follow up by writing them a short email within a few days of the show. Try mention something specific to your conversation (so they can put a name to a face) and make sure to deliver on any promises you might have made in your conversation (such as, “I’ll email you the name of that buyer…).
4) Make sure to bring your smart phone or tablet’s charger with you each day
If you’re mobile device has a woefully short battery life like mine, make sure to charge your phone midday at the convention center. I was emailing, texting, and Googling things far more than I had expected I would. And there were plenty of electrical outlets at the convention center, if you looked for them.
5) Go to the after parties
If someone invites you to a cocktail event or dinner, say yes! I had the opportunity to attend two cocktail events on the same night. I was tired after a full day of walking the show floor—and sick of meeting people—but I am glad I pushed myself to attend both parties. I met great people at those events. And the more relaxed atmosphere made it easier to have longer, deeper conversations than would be possible amidst the hustle and bustle of the show.
For more advice on attending conferences and trade shows, check out Mark Suster’s post on the subject.
The post Reflections on the Fancy Food Show (and tips for any trade show) appeared first on Making and Marketing.