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Hannah Ashor

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Hannah Ashor is a marketing professional with over 14 years’ experience. She has specialized in trade show and event management for both marketing agencies and client marketing groups. Her entire adult life has been in events and shows, and as she puts it, “It’s a bug, or a “fever," or better yet, a passion”. As a member of Mobile Cuisine, she helped orchestrate Chicago’s first food truck event series (Food Truck Tuesdays) which was successful in helping introduce the people of Chicago to the growing mobile food industry. Hannah’s creative visions in event planning and trade show booth design coupled with her watchful eye on budgeting has given her the ability to "see all the moving parts" to guarantee successful events and trade shows.

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lloyd taco truck buffalo

Today, we’ll take a deeper look into the 2014 Food Truck Taco Of The Year Winner that is Lloyd.

Childhood friends, Chris Dorsaneo and Pete Cimino knew they wanted to create something big and exciting.  Neither of them had any inkling that it would be Lloyd.

While Chris studied at the University of Hawaii Kapiolani Community College receiving two Associates in Science for Culinary and Pastry Arts, his passion was ignited for food creation.  Culinary inspirations like David Chang and Jose Andres and culinary school mentors like Chefs Ernst Hiltbrand and Alan Tsuchiyama coached and molded him into the professional he is today.

Pete’s mathematics background has served him well in this partnership.  Thankfully, he realized soon that the teaching gig out of college wasn’t his thing and turned to his life of “serial entrepreneurship.”  While dabbling in several ventures, he visited Chris in Hawaii and made a point to visit Giovanni’s Original shrimp truck.  “Little did I know that this unassuming, unofficial state institution was about to change our lives! Standing in line I had much time to ponder.” The idea of waiting in line was ridiculous, but Pete was taken by the “unique social atmosphere, the one that only occurs outside a food truck.”  This experience made him feel connected to the food in a way he’d never experienced.

Years later, when Chris returned to Buffalo, food trucks had started to explode.  The timing was right and they went to work.  The concept of “Lloyd” was born.

“Lloyd,” is a 4th degree sash in the fine art of Taco Kune Do, a farmer that Pete worked for, a gnome found behind Chris’ grandmother’s garage, a flavor scientist that teaches at MIT, and a sage that left them his recipe Bible from his world travels.  In reality, Lloyd is a figment of Pete’s imagination.  The company needed a name and a personality.  Pete’s sister Nina Barone was not only instrumental in helping them launch the truck, but boldly suggested the name “Lloyd.”  Lloyd’s mission is “street food on the edge.”  This means REAL food using the best ingredients one block at a time.

After launching OG Lloyd in 2010, Lloyd dos and Lloyd the III came on in 2012 and 2013 respectively.  Lloyd will cater your events with their Drop Off service or Truck On Site options.  With Lloyd’s growth, Chef Chris brought in CIA graduate Teddy Bryant.  Both have won the Nickel City Chef contest, a local Iron Chef-style competition.

“Quite a spectacular taco!” boasts one Yelper.  “The truck is full of incredibly friendly workers ready to serve up some taco goodness,” claims another. Lloyd’s customers are among the most loyal in the country.  They are rewarded with incredible food after waiting in line, even in the heart of winter…  Lloyd is thankful for the support they received from the Buffalo area, especially in the winter.

Lloyd offers taqueria-style street food with a Lloyd “spin.”  Their favorites sound so yummy, we may have to take a quick trip to Buffalo to try them all.  One favorite is the Dirty South, which is filled with Southern-style fried chicken thighs (arguably the best part of the chicken, IMHO), bacon aioli, maple syrup, baby kale, and crispy waffle chips made in Chris’ grandma’s pizzelle machine.  Their other favorite is the Hombre taco made with Mexican-style chorizo, fried potatoes, fresh onion, cilantro, avocado crema and a wedge of lime. They even have a play on the infamous Big Mac, albeit a much healthier version.  If it’s got the Lloyd spin, I’m IN!

It seems as if the Lloyd team has built a recipe of hard-working, fun deliciousness.  They are excited every day to meet their customers and find new places to serve them.  The keys to their success is KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid, adaptability, and being active in their food truck community.

We asked them where they might be in the future.  They were a bit tight-lipped on their future plans, but something tells me they will continue to serve the Buffalo area and evolve and grow into something huge.  Honestly, we can’t wait to see the future of Lloyd!

After their first day in operation, Pete’s friend looked at him and said, “Man, do you realize this truck is gonna be epic?” What a feeling!  What a feeling, indeed!

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With nearly 25,000 votes between our poll and individual email submissions it took us a little more time to tally things up than we originally planned.But now that the hard part is over, we are pleased to announce our winner…

llyod taco truck

Congratulations to the Lloyd Taco Truck in Buffalo, New York on winning the Mobile Cuisine 2014 Food Truck Taco of the Year Contest!  We’re super excited to tell you a little about them.

Childhood friends Chris Dorsaneo and Peter Cimino wanted to create a business concept that would take Buffalo by storm.  Chef Chris and self-proclaimed, “serial entrepreneur” Peter dreamt up the concept that is Lloyd.  Lloyd is so many things, but to the lucky and devoted folks of Buffalo, “he” is the purveyor of authentic, creative and delicious Mexican street food.  Whether you’re dining from OG Lloyd, Lloyd dos, or Lloyd the III, you’re bound to get tasty tacos, nachos and more!

Hungry for more?

We’ll take a deeper dive into Lloyd in our feature article tomorrow…<here>

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Have you ever purchased furniture only to find that it didn’t work in the space it was intended?  When getting new closets installed, I relied solely on the drawings provided by the company.  I had one question about a certain storage configuration.  Rather than have my sales rep fully walk through the plans; I answered the question myself.  I was wrong and the work is being redone.

3D Food Truck Kitchen

image from 3dconceptualdesigner.blogspot.com

The bigger question is:  How do you purchase your food truck without experiencing it in person?

The answer:  Ask many questions.

We bring this up because many of you will purchase your trucks from out-of-state builders.  Most kitchen builders are cognizant of the fact that you may not see your truck until it’s delivered.  They want to avoid unwanted surprises as much as you do, so truck builders will work closely with you to make sure the mobile kitchen you want is the one you need.

Some steps in getting your dream food truck kitchen sight unseen:

  1. Develop your concept.  This means to understand your menu and how you’re planning to store, prepare, cook and serve your food.  While this sounds elementary, it’s the first step in fully understanding your kitchen equipment needs.  Why would you have a deep fryer in your truck if you don’t have anything on your menu that’s deep fried?
  2. Know your staff and their needs/constraints.  You may think since that it’ll be you, your best friend, and cousin working the truck and because you all get along, it doesn’t matter.  What you really need to take into account, besides the tight working quarters, is each person’s area of responsibility.  Does the space fit your employees and their food preparation activities?  Are you planning to store ingredients in upper bins when your chef is short?  You have to make sure the space fits the person and their food preparation responsibilities.
  3. Food preparation flow.  You have to ask yourself how you will all work in the space in regards to food preparation.  How are the orders taken – from inside or outside of the truck?  Does the kitchen layout reflect the process by which you’re preparing the food?  Where are you serving the food – from the window, through an open door?  These processes, and many others, need to be taken into account while you develop your kitchen.
  4. Read and understand the renderings.  Reputable food truck builders should provide you with schematics or layouts of your truck throughout the building process as things change and verbally give you a good understanding of them. Not only should you get the drawings, you should get a full explanation by the builder of how the equipment supports your specific menu.  The dimensions should be accurate and the layout of the equipment should logically follow your preparation and serving needs.  Since most of the consultation is done via phone and email, take time to really understand what you’re looking at on paper before you give the “OK to proceed.” 

Felix Elorriaga, owner of Kitchens on Wheels in New Braunfels, Texas, says about working with out-of-state food truck clients, “That’s exactly what we do.  Whether it’s face-to-face or 90% over the phone, we provide the initial rendering and then work out the logistics of the systems and equipment.”  They will build to suit and talk their clients through the whole process.  They, and other reputable builders, use computer aided design (CAD) programs to provide detailed renderings to their clients electronically.

In short, your food truck builder should be able to guide you through the process, whether you’re a beginner or a food service industry veteran.  The confines of a truck are dramatically different than your home or a restaurant kitchen.  Whether you’re building your food truck or installing new shelves in your closet be sure to ask questions and understand how it all works for YOU.

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Congratulations to the Saucy ‘Stache as Mobile Cuisine’s 2013 Rookie Food Truck of the Year!

2013 rookie of the year food truck

New to the Miami food truck scene, they’re already making their saucy mark on south Florida.  The Saucy ‘Stache was conceived by sisters Nichole and Michelle.  While Nichole attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, she learned early on she had a knack for creating yummy sauces.  Upon returning to south Florida, she and sister Michelle, a marketing professional, decided to open a truck.

We’re so happy they did.

To aid in the kitchen, Michelle’s husband Anthony was trained while their folks round out the Saucy ‘Stache support team.  With a tight-knit group in place, the sisters love going to work every day.  Nichole takes great pleasure in creating dishes where customers order seconds for their next meals.  Michelle’s strengths are outside of the kitchen, basically keeping the engine running.  Outside of truck responsibilities, Michelle also runs an online marketing agency and coordinates catering events for food trucks.

The sisters offer a couple of tips for food truck owners, especially those just starting out.  When you think you have all of your bases covered with permits and licenses, another requirement will always come up.  Be flexible and prepared.  Once you’re on the road, know your audience.  The Saucy ‘Stache has many options and the sisters tailor the menu for the day’s or event’s audience.  If they are serving at a brewery, they “bring foods that are a hit with drunk people.  Our fried macaroni balls seem to make them very happy,” says Michelle.  If they go to a wellness event, they “load up on salad and brown rice.”

Whatever the event or menu offering the Saucy ‘Stache has combinations that will tempt you to lick your bowl clean.  Nichole’s favorite is the latest special — sautéed steak in the ninja garlic sauce over brown rice with mandarin teriyaki sauce.  Michelle likes the maple bacon bourbon sauce (um, I personally believe everything is good with bourbon sauce) with their truffled sweet potato mash side.  We’re drooling here.

The Saucy ‘Stache sisters are having fun meeting their customers and creating fun, tasty dishes for them.  They are going to be fun to watch as they grow and evolve.  What’s next on their to-do list?  World domination.  If it’s covered in maple bacon bourbon sauce, we can’t wait!

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Food trucks are here to stay, no matter what some bloggers have written.  And after visiting the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit last week, it’s clear that the automakers want in on the food truck industry.  I had the pleasure of speaking to two different automakers that are definitely familiar with and looking to promote their commercial offerings to the mobile food industry.

2014 RAM ProMaster

Food trucks aren’t really new in this industry because automakers have been serving food to the media at the Los Angeles Auto Show for a couple of years.  The difference is that more manufacturers are taking a more serious look at this industry with its commercial truck and van segment.

The NAIAS is typically home to major product announcements and launches with global automotive media in strong attendance.  The products on display are primarily consumer automotive while other large shows around the country have a higher concentration of commercial vehicles on display.  Having said that, I was excited to see the Ram ProMaster proudly displayed on the main aisle in the Chrysler family of brands booth.  I was happy to sit down with Robert Hegbloom, the Director of Ram Brand Marketing, to discuss their plans with the Ram ProMaster as it relates to the food truck industry.

Hegbloom believes this product is a smart choice for food truck industry professionals.  Its best-in-class features set it apart from the competition.

I’ve seen all sorts of food trucks around the country and on television.  I’ve spoken to several owners about how they’ve retrofitted their trucks to fit their needs and the problems they’ve had because the truck wasn’t built with their specific needs in mind.

I could rattle off the best-in-class of features directly from the Ram ProMaster media kit, but I’d prefer to elaborate and bring some of it to life for practical food truck purposes.

The fuel economy, cargo capacity and payload are great features.  Fuel economy is key when having to move around several times or make several trips to and from your commercial kitchen to restock or travel long distances to see your customers.  The payload can hold up to 5,145 pounds of equipment and supplies.  The towing capacity can haul up to 5,100 pounds of additional supplies, or your portable smoker and more.

This is the only vehicle in its class with front-wheel drive.  Because of this, the Ram ProMaster is able to offer the lowest step-in height and highest standard ceiling height.  As a food truck owner/operator, you’ll have headspace to work while the lowest step-in height means comfort and reduced fatigue and risk of injuries while getting in and out of the truck.

The front-wheel drive also offers some ease of driving and handling because most of us are used to that in our everyday driving.

The Ram ProMaster is a great utilitarian commercial vehicle whose corporate offices are taking notice of the food truck industry.  It was developed from the successful, long-standing Fiat Ducato.  It has 30+ years of reliable service and more than 4.5 million units sold.

Ram Truck is well known for being the most upfitter-friendly brand in the truck market.  That’s good news for kitchen builders and food truck owner/operators that can work closely with their preferred dealers to customize their kitchens.  Let’s keep in mind that while a full kitchen will fit, the equipment will most likely need to be smaller in scale to fit in this space.  If your kitchen equipment needs and operational staffing are minimal, this can be the right vehicle for you.  Watch for the Ram ProMaster at your local Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Association and various food/restaurant related shows in the future.

Other vehicles in this segment are the Nissan EV, the Ford Transit Connect, and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.  All of them bring different features to the party and all are solid commercial vans for food truck use.  They will all be discussed over the next few months.

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It’s May again, and the 2013 National Restaurant Association Show is set to begin next weekend here in Chicago.  Despite the popularity of these types of trade shows, there are no guarantees of success when it comes to being an exhibitor.

trade_show_success

In fact, according to the Trade Show Bureau (TSB), roughly 40% of first-time exhibitors don’t come back. A lot of them just go, stand around not doing much, and then swear they’re never coming back.  The problem for these first time exhibitors is they don’t realize the effort it takes before and after to make a trade show work.

Here are 10 tips that can help small companies and/or new exhibitors make their mark at a trade show:

Check a trade show directory. Find out as much as possible about an exhibition before the show. Make certain its attendees are your target group.

Fix a budget. Find out prices for airfare, accommodations, and the like. Also, decide what your display needs are. If your budget is tight or you’re just going to one show, you may want to consider renting a display. If you go to a lot of shows (five or more a year), buying a display may be a better option.

Set objectives. Don’t go to the show without concrete marketing goals. Plan to meet a certain number of key customers and prospects.

Ship ahead, and allow plenty of lead time. Don’t expect things to arrive when they’re supposed to. Plan as if your materials will get there a week or two later than your target date.

Watch labor costs. Portable displays can usually be set up quickly and help you avoid additional labor costs. Check the show booklet carefully to see what the regulations are when it comes to setting up your own booth. As a rule, if it can be set up in 20 minutes or less with one person, you can avoid extra labor charges.

Keep it simple. If you can’t afford a lot of extras in the booth, at least keep it uncluttered and simple. Don’t put a table in the front, blocking the entrance. Avoid having chairs in the booth (it may become too tempting to sit down). Most important: Have a banner that tells people who you are and what you do.

Spend on lights. Don’t cut corners too closely on lighting. Many exhibit halls are poorly lit, and a dark booth is both uninviting and apt to make the company look like it doesn’t belong.

Consider trade show training. Many firms offer training on how to sell at trade shows. Salespeople who are great on the road may feel less comfortable standing in a booth for six or eight hours a day.

Don’t understaff. A minimum of two people is always necessary. If budgets are really tight, look at the possibility of hiring an on-site temp rather than sending a staffer to the show.

Be aggressive. Go out into the aisles and meet people. Don’t stand there (or worse, sit) waiting for people to come to you.

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The 2012 National Restaurant Association Show came to a close about a week ago and I believe most attendees and exhibitors considered it a success.  As a fledgling writer, I felt very inspired by this year’s show; and a bit disappointed as a food truck advocate.

nra_logo

Last year’s NRA Show was a whole new experience.  Mobile Cuisine was still new and establishing its voice in the mobile food and food service industries.  Last year conversations began in aisles, booths, at the Starbucks near the concourse and have been held since.  Friendships were forged and potential partnerships are still being explored.  Last year it was new.  This year felt like we belonged…  At least, that’s how it felt on the surface.

As mobile food advocates, we found the absence of the official food truck area a bit disconcerting.  Stories were floating around as to why.  One version stated the food truck manufacturers didn’t want to be next to each other.  That could be true.  Another version was that the NRA, not wanting to have an official food truck space in the show, placed mobile food–focused vendors throughout the two halls.

Along with the scattered mobile food-focused vendors, the seminars that covered the topic went from nearly a dozen last year to less than 5 this year.  It gave the impression that the NRA doesn’t take this “trend” seriously.

One serious bit of information was circulating through the mobile food–focused vendors.  It was announced that 22% of the NRA’s fast-casual restaurant members are interested in starting food trucks.  This statistic was a bit mind numbing, but not surprising.  Consider the $100s of millions of dollars brought in by these large corporations and their interest in what some call a “passing trend.”  Soon, a Burger King truck could be parked next to the Grill ‘Em All truck.  The success of either truck STILL relies on consumer preference.

This statistic not only validates that food trucks aren’t a trend, but a viable source of income, brand extension and a business that should be supported in their respective communities, local governments and the National Restaurant Association.  After all, food trucks, whether they have a brick and mortar home base, are corporate supported or independently owned, are mobile restaurants and should be welcomed into the NRA family.

It seems strange that the NRA has distanced itself from the whole mobile food debate – locally and nationally.  For an organization that lobbies on behalf of and supports restaurants on every level, one has to ask, why wouldn’t the NRA want include these businesses in the conversation?

While walking the show floor, we ran into several of the local Chicago food truck owners and met others that are about to open their new trucks in unexpected places around the country.  These mobile restaurant owners are not renegade, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants truck operators.  They are restaurant owners with many of the same concerns as their brick and mortar counterparts, along with a whole host of other concerns.  They’ve made the investment to attend the show and build relationships in the industry.  The industry needs to open their arms and welcome them to the food service family.

 

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NRA Show

Chef Matt Maroni (white shirt) checks out the food trucks section. - JOHN J. KIM ~ SUN-TIMES

Mobile Cuisine is gearing up to attend the 2012 National Restaurant Show in Chicago.  We wanted to share some helpful tips with you, the attendee, to go to this or any other trade show with purpose. In the first part of this series, I covered travel, accommodation, personnel and pre-planning for the show. In today’s article I will go over a simple approach to get the most of your trade show stay.

Now you know where you’re staying, what sessions you’re attending and which booths are your priority.  Now what?  You have to prepare your “elevator speech” to buyers and sellers.  Everyone exhibiting is trying to sell you something.  You, as the attendee have the freedom of a leisurely stroll through this life-sized catalog.  That convenience comes with a price.  You have to be prepared.

When you’re at a show, you are starting a relationship with everyone you meet (potentially).  You’ve decided to attend this show because it affects your business.  Be prepared to start the conversation with existing and potential suppliers.  You should know what your company needs, basic quantities, timing, distribution challenges, etc.  Having these conversations with representatives of your potential and existing business partners allows them to tailor their services to your needs.

Many times, exhibiting companies will take orders on the show floor.  They’ll typically offer a “show promotion” limited to attendees.  You will need to place the order and fulfill it within a certain time following the show.  This strategy gets you a discounted price on goods that you need or entice you to try something new.  You are not obligated to complete the purchase after the show, but it’s not recommended.  These transactions are the start of business relationships.  You don’t want to be the “boy who cried wolf.”  It’s best to come to the show armed with your financials and have a strong idea about goods/services that you need and are willing to purchase.  Remember, if you’re strapped for cash, these are opportune times to negotiate future discounts, volume discounts and overall future business.

When you’re in a booth and meeting with the staff, be prepared to get your badge scanned.  This allows the company to follow up with you directly, usually via email.  You, as the attendee, need to be willing to offer your contact information.

When you’re attending the show, you want to convey your brand professionally.  Some companies have a policy of formal business attire in the office, but when people hit the show floor they have no idea how to dress.  A good rule of thumb is to look polished and clean.  It’s typically good to be branded with your company’s logo on your shirt.  Wear clean, pressed pants with comfortable dress or casual shoes.  We suggest avoiding sandals or sneakers.  Remember, you’re representing your company.  You want to portray the best image as possible.

As an attendee, you have responsibilities after the show as well.  You’ll need to organize the notes, photos and business cards to give you some clarity on all of the information you gathered while at the show.  This will help you in identifying which company you’d like to start to do business.

Some companies are really good at sending out general follow up emails, while others never use your information again.  Other companies will not only send out general follow-up emails, they’ll assign sales staff to follow up with you directly.  Your responsibility as an attendee is to make sure you get the information you wanted.  It’s the reason you attended the show in the first place!

Here’s a basic checklists to make sure you’re on track for the show:

Dress the Part:

  • Wear comfortable shoes:  You will be on your feet all day.  Be comfortable.  My motto is “Happy feet equals a Happy Hannah.”
  • Go coatless:  If the weather outside isn’t horrible, don’t even bother bringing a coat.  It’s a bulky thing you’ll end up having to carry around.  If you need one, find a place to check it.
  • Bag/Satchel/Tote:  Most booths will offer samples of products and company brochures.  If you want to take “things,” you’ll need a place to store all of it.  Keep in mind, it’s best to take only the things you really want, otherwise you’ll be carrying a bunch of things you’ll never look at again.

Things to Have On You:

  • Business cards
  • Bottle of water.  Stay hydrated.
  • Snacks.  If you’re attending the NRA Show, you will have plenty of opportunity to eat some great food.
  • Pen & Notebook:  This will help you remember interesting bits of information while in sessions or take notes after you meet people.
  • Camera:  There are so many products and people that you will meet, it’s sometimes best to take pictures to aid in deciphering all of the data.
  • iPad/Tablet:  These gadgets are making the pen, paper and camera obsolete.  Take your notes and photos on these and you’ll be able to organize them more quickly.

Reference Checklist:

  • Identify who from your company will attend
  • Register for the show
  • Book hotel rooms
  • Book flights
  • Review website and identify seminars that interest you
  • Assign colleagues to seminars
  • Identify booths you want to visit
  • Map it out and create a game plan
  • Establish a dress code and get apparel made
  • Replenish business cards
  • Create an elevator speech
  • Know your current financial state.  Come ready to negotiate
  • Have an awesome show!

 

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NRA Show

Mobile Cuisine is gearing up to attend the 2012 National Restaurant Show in Chicago.  We wanted to share some helpful tips with you, the attendee, to go to this or any other trade show with purpose.  As an attendee, you pay good money to go to a trade show – travel, attendance fees and all of the other expenses associated with being away from your food truck or out of the office.  To make your trip worthwhile, you need to have a plan.  The convention center can be a maze of displays with dizzying lights, sounds, colors and smells.  While a bit of distraction is expected, it should not throw you off of your overall plan.

Attending trade shows is not what I’d call fun or glamorous.  It’s a part of your job as a business owner, marketing, sales or purchasing manager.  You need to be involved and meet your counterparts, see your competition and meet your customers and vendors face-to-face.  Attending trade shows is all about building relationships, increasing your network and representing your brand.

Once you’ve determined you are attending a trade show, you will need to identify who in your company will attend (consider a member of your sales/distribution and purchasing departments as both of these functions are key at trade shows.  You are looking to sell your products or services to someone and buying the equipment, knowledge and ingredients to make those products or services to sell.) and make the necessary travel arrangements.  This can be a super-saver activity or a strategic wining/dining experience.

Your first step in planning is to make this trip the least expensive as possible.  You can pick your favorite carrier or discount travel website and book away.  You’ll need to identify a means of public transportation or rental car agency to get you to and from the hall if you stay further away from the convention center .  Most hotels in close proximity to the show will increase their rates during the trade show dates, so the further away you get from the convention center, the lower the rates.  This may make it less convenient getting to and from the convention center, but it will keep your costs down.

The next part of your planning is to create a strategic wining/dining experience.  Are you there to meet with existing or new customers?  Are you looking to impress them?  Are you trying to sell your goods or services?  If these are the reasons for your attending the show, it’s probably wiser for you to stay at a show sponsored hotel or a property that’s close to the trade show.  Not only will this give you the convenience of being close to the show, it will allow you off-show floor opportunities to meet with potential customers/distributors.  Many introductions are made at hotel restaurants and bars immediately surrounding the trade show.  You’ll want to make sure that you anticipate those chance meetings.

Timeline for Travel Arrangements

Depending on the venue and available hotels, you can sometimes wait until the last minute to book your room.  If you will be traveling with a group you may want to  reserve a block of rooms 6-11 months before the show for your group with general dates.  If this isn’t an option for a specific show, you can sometimes book your rooms as soon as the show’s housing group opens booking.  Each trade show has housing information on its website.  Housing blocks typically open around 6 months before the show.  The longer you wait to book your rooms, the higher the price of the room and the selection becomes very limited.

Okay, now that you’ve planned your travel arrangements, let’s take a look at the show.

Most trade shows have seminars, workshops and speakers for you to attend and learn new practices in your industry.  Restaurant and food shows are actually quite fun because a lot of the time you get to eat the demonstrations. Once you’ve downloaded and reviewed the seminar/speaker schedule and have identified the sessions that best suit you, create a schedule. There are usually several overlapping sessions and you cannot be in two places at once.  This is where you employ the “divide and conquer” rule.  Assign the most relevant sessions to you and your colleagues based on roles within your organization and which proves the best networking opportunities for that particular person.

Now that you’ve booked yourselves in seminars, you’ll need to find time to walk the show floor.  That’s the real reason you’re there!  The best way to approach this is to go to the trade show’s website and review the list of exhibiting companies.  Sometimes the companies are listed not only by name, but also by function in your industry.  It’s always wise to scan all of the lists.  You may find there are new names on the list.  Trade shows are how a smaller, start-up company can get its proverbial “foot in the door” by meeting people face-to-face.

You’ve scanned the list of exhibitors and noted their booth numbers.  Now you need to print out the hall plan of the show and plot out the booths you’d like to visit.  If you find you have several stops to make, you can assign certain stops to each of your colleagues or you can prioritize your visits; high, medium, low.  While this step seems very elementary, it can be exceedingly helpful when you’ve only got 1-15 of show hours to cram in many visits.  Since you’re prioritizing your booth visits, you’re more likely to actually make those stops.  Being deliberate in your plan allows you to get the most of your limited time.

You may think that starting at one end of the hall and working your way down each aisle is the best route to go.  While this is good for some shows, this is not the best plan if you’re there for business.  You can and will stroll right by a booth that has that product/service that could save you money, headache or whatever.  There may be a bunch of people crowding around at the moment and all you want to do it get through it.  You may be distracted by a demonstration across the aisle and pulled off course.  Either way, you can be easily distracted without the plan.  We understand that you’re always able to double-back and loop around the hall again, but we’re trying to be efficient.

Once you’ve identified who’s exhibiting and where they are in the hall, if you have been trying to make a connection with a particular company, you should contact them directly.  Via the show’s website, you should be able to find an internal contact and get the name of someone working the show that can answer your questions directly.  If possible, reach out to that person prior to the show and set up time to meet with them while you’re both at the show.  Most of the people working the show are in Sales and will have their evenings full of drinks and dinner meetings.  If you need to meet with someone specifically, it’s best to get on their calendar early.

I hope you found part 1 of this 2 part series helpful. Come back tomorrow to check out part 2 where I will cover more specifics on how to attend a trade show including tips and a trade show planning checklist.

 

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