By DAN MARMADUKE
Each year, the Specialty Coffee Expo welcomes industry professionals with varying levels of experience and time spent working in coffee. Whether you are just starting out and experiencing Expo for the first time or you visit the show every year, it is very valuable to have a game plan going in.
Fortunately, Expo veterans have been kind enough to provide their insights on how to make the most of your Expo experience, and shed light on some helpful things to avoid doing during your time in Seattle.
Expo is the premiere industry trade show to build business connections and explore new ideas to help your company grow – but where do you begin?
“Walk each aisle of the show floor because there are a lot of new companies that you sort of just run in to,” said Laura Sommers, President, Espresso Supply “but clearly mark on the map where you want to stop in advance so that you don’t miss the booths you came to see. You want to prioritize and manage all of the information without getting sidetracked.”
On a similar note, Michael Szyliowicz of SolaBev recommends “always walk(ing) the show starting on one side and travel up and down each aisle. That way I can see every booth. And if I get dragged away I can return to where I was and continue walking. There is a lot to see!”
Making a New Business Connection
There are a lot of different ways to make new connections at Expo, but often times certain factors get in the way of networking and connecting with who you originally planned to connect with.
Succinctly, Laura Sommers provides advice for making a new connection: “speak up!”
“A lot of times people are shy or they often think an exhibitor is busy. Overall we (the specialty coffee community) are a very friendly and helpful group,” Laura said. “We always have time for one another and time for those who are just entering the industry.”
Michael Szyliowicz recommends sticking to the plan you came in with and building connections around the products conducive to your business goals.
“I want to ask questions only about products I am interested in, and sample the products that I think will be useful to me professionally,” he said. “Otherwise it is sensory overload.”
Things to Avoid
There are abundant opportunities after the show floor closes to go out and enjoy Seattle with colleagues and other coffee professionals. While having fun and enjoying your experience is one of the most valuable aspects of attending Expo, you want to avoid the Spring Break in Panama mindset and keep consumption respectfully limited.
“You want to stop one full drink before your personal limitations,” said Laura Sommers. “When you leave your hotel room in the evening to go out socializing, you should have already made a commitment as to how much you think would be a good idea to consume.”
Often times advice like this isn’t front of mind and we tend to let loose, push our limits and realize it later than we should have. It’s ok, we are only human. To Laura’s point, setting limitations ahead of time is a great way to ensure that you have fun while building strong relationships during Expo and maintaining the company image that you have worked so hard to establish.
The overarching message about making the most of your Expo experience is to come in with a game plan, walk each aisle to explore new opportunities and businesses, and make sure that you have an incredible experience without going overboard outside of show hours.
Taking these tips in to account will be a tremendous benefit to all, no matter how many times you have attended Expo.
We hope that your experience in Seattle is memorable and that you go back home feeling accomplished and ready grow your business with the new relationships established at the show.