I first heard the phrase “conference season” muttered by a well-dressed businessman to a well-dressed businesswoman as we stood in line at the Winter Fancy Food Show in 2013. It was January, and I had left drizzly, cool rain in Seattle for high and bright sunshine in San Francisco. I thought to myself, “Conference season sounds great!”
Fast forward three years, and I still think that. I enjoy traveling and going to trade shows. I get to meet new people, talk about their products, have them ask if they can sell me something – what’s not to love?
In February, I attended the American Frozen Food Institute conference in San Diego. Some of these organizations really know how to choose their locations! I broke into frozen food with Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, and I really enjoy the science and technology behind it. I don’t so much love the cold rooms, but that’s a different post.
Trade show events focus on different services, and the AFFI conference focused on bringing different businesses together for a series of meetings. There was a very limited expo floor with only a few vendors, but the bulk of the vendors and businesses had closed door conference rooms in which a rapid succession of meetings took place.
Appointments for meetings were scheduled in advance of the show, and despite being a first-timer, I scheduled 1 full day of business meetings. Some were meetings with business people from other trade industries, and we cross-networked, if that were a term. For others, I had some fantastic conversations with experienced businesses in the frozen industry.
In addition to meetings, the AFFI gave quite a few presentations, ranging from deep dives into consumer segmentation (market research) and educational sessions about how to comply with the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) policies that affect frozen food, food imports, and other related food supply chain business operations.
In between each of the sessions and in the main hub, snacks and coffee were provided. In the evenings, networking events often offered beer or wine and appetizers, and these events were sponsored by big vendors. Both are great ways to meet businesses.
I came away from the weekend of networking with some great new contacts, a new respect for San Diego, and a little more knowledge about the industry. Works for me!