Party Time or Prime Time? 10 Tips for Making the Most of an Industry Convention

Jon Wool Speaking at Catersource

Conference and convention season is in full swing. Caterers, restaurateurs, event planners, and party rental companies are among the many industries with their own conventions. There's even one exclusively for pizza makers! (Don’t tell my nutritionist, but I dream of one day attending the pizza convention.)

Each of these many conferences and conventions gives attendees the chance to eat and drink too much, shop, see Wayne Newton, and have loads of fun. But as exciting as it is to get out of our kitchens and offices, fun should not be our primary goal. The primary goal is to further our education, develop new resources, build our personal business networks, and promote the success of our companies.

In order to make the most of your time and investment, you need a solid game plan. Here are some helpful hints:

  1. Determine in advance what you wish to learn and which sessions will provide the most benefit. Plan ahead so you don’t accidentally miss a session that was made for you.
  2. Attend sessions that challenge you. Look for topics that fall outside the range of what you already know.
  3. Identify speakers and attendees you would like to meet. Send them an email of introduction a week before the conference requesting to connect.
  4. Set a quota of how many new people you wish to meet and to exchange business cards with. A daily goal will keep you on track during the length of the convention.
  5. Write on the back of their card something about that person that you can later reference. This is always a good practice and will help you personalize your follow-up (see #10).
  6. Wake up early, dress smartly, and don't skip sessions. I know that the hotel pool or the never-ending buffet may be calling your name, but remember your business objectives!
  7. Separate from others with your company so you can collectively cover more ground. Schedule a nightly “debriefing” to share notes while they’re fresh in your mind.
  8. Certainly have some fun but remember to be on your best professional behavior throughout. It’s good to develop a reputation in your industry but not as the guy who got in an argument with the pit boss.
  9. After the conference, prepare a brief written overview of what you learned. Present it to your teammates who didn’t attend. Consider which ideas to implement in your company.
  10. Connect with every single person from the conference you spent time with. (This will be easy because you already did #4 and #5, right?)

Attending conferences and conventions can be expensive and time-consuming. Make sure your attendance is a good investment by focusing on your primary business goals. You’ll still find some time to party but’s always Prime Time!


Are there any strategies you use to maximize your convention attendance? Share them in the comments!

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