• Aleya Harris

Strategies for Event Success as a Food & Beverage Business Owner

As a Food and Beverage (F&B) business owner, conferences and other events can provide fantastic opportunities to showcase the best your brand has to offer. The unique environment created by an expo hall or conference center means potential customers, as well as business partners, are right at your fingertips. All too often, however, exhibitors fail to make the most of a showing by falling victim to inadequate preparation and lackluster presentation.

There are a variety of strategies you can employ before, during and after a conference or tradeshow to ensure that you leave behind the best impression. Understanding the purpose of the event you’re attending, as well as how to best draw-in passersby to your booth or display are key details to keep in mind from the time you register. Staying organized, energetic and goal-oriented will help you to further stand out both during and after the day itself.

Use Conferences and Events as Customer Magnets

As you grow your F&B business, you’ll likely have the chance to attend a variety of industry-related events, whether they be private or public. Such events might include:

  • Trade Shows: Trade shows and expos give you the chance to showcase your latest products in an industry-specific setting. They might be open exclusively to professionals and experts in related areas, or the general public may be allowed to attend.

  • Conferences: Conferences often involve a diverse array of sessions devoted to speeches and discussions, making them a fantastic place for industry-knowledgeable attendees to share ideas. Conferences often also involve an exhibition component.

  • Parties and other Private Events: You might be offered the opportunity to cater, or assist with, a private function such as a party, wedding or gala. Such events are often themed and include a guest list of people within the same network.

Familiarizing yourself with the intended audience and goals of each event beforehand will allow you to orient your presentation in the most appropriate way.

5 Key Things to Do to Prep for Your Next Tradeshow

  1. Put together a freebie: Another point during which it’s important to take your audience into consideration is when trying to determine the ideal freebie. Of course, samples of your latest product are a great go-to, especially if the event caters to the general public. Still, consider offering something non-edible. A re-usable item will continue calling attention to your name even after the event has ended. Not to mention, people tend to fill up quickly at shows and may become put off by the idea of having to taste anything else. One giveaway option could be swag related to your product; if, for example, you produce craft beers, a bottle opener printed with your company’s logo is a great option. Items such as re-usable bags are also often appreciated (and eco-friendly!) and may draw more attention to your both, as attendees quickly collect numerous mementos while walking around the exhibit hall.

  2. Digitally capture and save contact info: Prior to the event, you’ll want to prepare a digital method for quickly collecting information such as names and email addresses. The last thing you’d want would be to lose hours’ worth of networking to disorganization or a computer malfunction. Google Forms is a great tool for gathering and storing names, emails and other methods of contact. It gives you the option to view responses both individually and collectively, making everyone’s information easily accessible. Forms also save automatically to Google Drive, thus negating the panic that comes with an accidentally unsaved document. If you plan on reusing the same form for different people, which you likely will at a show, just make sure to uncheck “Limit to 1 response” in the settings.

  3. Personalize your set-up: The number of booths and businesses present can feel overwhelming, as can the sheer amount of space taken up by the tradeshow floor. To combat getting lost in the crowd, make sure to set up your space with materials clearly showcasing your name and product. Try as well to add unique and attention-getting details and graphics.

  4. Promote further freebies and giveaways: You also have the option of adding a promotional touch to freebies. You can do so beforehand, by posting online about the exciting swag attendees can expect. Promotional efforts can also continue during the show itself. Come prepared with small cards or fliers containing simple tasks people can complete in exchange for a freebie. Tasks can include liking one of your social media pages, posting a photo on their Instagram or Facebook story, or re-tweeting your most recent Tweet.

  5. Reach out in advance: There are a number of people to whom you might want to reach out in the weeks and days leading up to the show. These can include email list subscribers and past event attendees, whose contacts you’ll likely already have stored. Additionally, take a look at the list of other exhibitors provided by the conference’s organizer. If any potential partners stand out, send them an email offering the chance to network; just be careful of your tone if your communication is unsolicited.

5 Must-Do Tasks During A Tradeshow

  1. Draw people in: Sitting passively behind your table is a surefire way to deter people from walking up to your exhibit. If possible, have someone standing in front of the booth drawing passersby in with samples, swag or activities. Show attendees you’re excited about what you have to offer—it will make them more likely to reciprocate the feeling.

  2. Broadcast the event on social media: Regardless of how large or small their current client base is, F&B business owners generally find social media to be an incredibly powerful marketing tool for a variety of purposes. Calling attention to the event via your online platform can be a great way to promote your business using associated hashtags and links to relevant accounts. Take photos throughout the day, including during set-up and take-down. Popular photo ops include the expo hall or convention center, the crowds and your samples. Posting photos of attendees with your products is another option; just make sure to get their permission to share prior to doing so.

  3. Keep an eye on your inventory: Try to come prepared with enough samples or freebies to last throughout the entire day. If, however, you do run out, offer coupons for discounted or free products instead. Try to keep the giveaways looking well-stocked, as this also helps to minimize empty space. If your set-up is looking chaotic, as can happen as crowds pass by and take things, take a moment to organize. This will ensure you know where a particular item, such as a business card or promotional flyer, is as soon as you need it.

  4. Get feedback at the moment: A further useful aspect to Google Forms is the ability to have respondents add comments. You have the option when creating the form, to personalize any feedback question you’d like answered. Of course, having each person type out response can take time. A faster option is to hand out small feedback cards with a selection of pre-printed questions and selectable answers, as well as space for additional comments. This will allow you to gather responses to your presentation and avoid a traffic jam around your booth.

  5. Continue advertising up-coming deals and events: Along with other goodies, hand out flyers promoting upcoming shows and other events your company will be attending. You might also add a coupon that attendees can take to a local grocery store or restaurant for a deal on your product.

5 Super Important Post-Event To-Dos

  1. Send thank-you’s: If you’ve worked closely with a particular speaker, company or organizer, send them a personal note stating how much you valued their support. This can be done so via email or snail mail. It will help to reinforce your professionalism and dedication leaving a positive impression.

  2. Reach out to new contacts: Follow up, in the next 1-2 days, with anyone whose contact information you received. For respondents to your Google Form, this may include a more generic statement of thanks and upcoming news. For potential network leads, however, messages may be more personal.

  3. Post a recap on social media: Just as you kept your followers updated during the event, you’ll want to give them a recap as well. Take time to select some of the best photos from the day and post them along with a positive message about the event. To encourage further customer engagement, try finding and reposting any photos your brand has been tagged in.

  4. Promote your next event: Broadcast information about the next event your business plans on attending, and continue sending out reminders in the weeks leading up.

  5. Follow up with your team: Take the time to sit down with your team members who contributed to the event, and get their opinion on how it went. Take note of what they felt worked, what didn’t, and how confident everyone was in fulfilling their roles.

Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be on the road to making your next event a smashing success.