Time is winding down and, as Anaheim draws nearer, you might be starting to think about how to maximize your upcoming experience at Catersource + The Special Event in May. Whether it’s your first time heading to the conference or you’re a seasoned attendee, proactive planning is the answer.
Opportunities abound at Catersource + The Special Event, bringing a week of education and networking to event professionals.
See Meghan Ely LIVE during Catersource + The Special Event. The Catersource Conference & Tradeshow, co-located with The Special Event, is heading to Anaheim May 2 – 5, 2022. With fresh keynotes, new networking opportunities, eye-popping showcasing events and never-before-seen industry speakers, prepare to be wowed. Learn more
If you want to start mapping out your trip, use these strategies to prepare and get the most out of your investment.
Plan out what you want to learn.
There is so much to learn at Catersource + The Special Event, so it’s worth attending some breakout sessions even if you’re mainly going to network or work the tradeshow. But time onsite is of the essence, so it’s best to plan ahead and show up with a game plan!
“It’s always a good idea to have a plan on what you want to take away from the conference, particularly what you can learn from speakers in their sessions,” says Trip Wheeler of SB Value.
Fortunately, the conference schedule is officially live so spend some time reviewing it and highlighting who you want to see and what you want to learn.
“Try to study up the schedule as much as you can before attending TSE/Catersource!” encourages Nora Sheils (see her live!) of Rock Paper Coin. “Make a plan of attack so you know which speakers you are going to see when and you know where to be and when.”
If you’re feeling a bit of decision overwhelm when looking through the schedule, Refine for Wedding Planners’ Amber Anderson (see her live!) shares a strategy to make your choices easier. “Beyond the obvious of studying speakers prior to attending, I find it helpful to cross-reference their topics for podcasts they may have had on certain topics in case that helps me select someone else that may be speaking at the same time,” she says.
Take advantage of the mobile app.
A lot happens onsite (and off!) during the conference, and it can feel like a lot to keep up with the schedule. Wheeler recommends using the Catersource + The Special Event mobile app, noting that “it's very good at allowing people to connect and it’s a major help with mapping out your schedule while on site.”
Save your must-see breakout sessions, plan your lunch breaks, and learn more about the speakers—there’s a lot of information at your fingertips, so make sure to download the app before you arrive!
Don’t miss the tradeshow.
The tradeshow floor is one of features that sets Catersource + The Special Event apart from other conferences. Industry professionals come from far and wide to share their products and services, so it’s an excellent chance to network and gain some insight into the market.
“In the gaps in between sessions, map out a game plan to go through the tradeshow and take a lot at what the vendors have to offer,” Wheeler adds. “The booths are wonderful for inspiration, and I always find that we can pull a lot of ideas for later in the year.”
If you find a brand that interests you or someone you’d like to know better, don’t be afraid to give out your business card, sign up for an email list, or take the conversation offsite. There are plenty of connections to make simply by walking the floor, so find a buddy and see what it has to offer!
Take time to rest.
While you may be ready for a jam-packed week, be sure to create space for yourself to rest, reflect, and recharge. “Multi-day conferences are exhausting, even for the most extroverted folks,” says Aleya Harris (see her live!) of Flourish Marketing. “It’s a lot of walking, socializing, engaging, and learning.”
Harris continues: “If you want to make the most of your time, make sure to carve out time for energy management and self-care. It may be a grounding yoga practice in your hotel room before the day begins, or it might be heading out early to catch up on sleep. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself burnt out and ready to move your flight up by day 2.”
There is a lot of valuable education to take in, but you need to be in the headspace to absorb and apply it all. But it’s hard to do so when you’re in go-go-go mode. “Don't forget to make time for lunch and breaks,” Sheils encourages. “Sometimes back-to-back speakers can be overwhelming and before you know it you're braindead!”
Be smart about networking.
On the flip side of the conference are the bountiful networking opportunities that await you. New partnerships and referral sources can be just as valuable as educational takeaways, so make sure to set aside time for intentional networking.
If the idea of meeting lots of new people at once makes you want to hide out in your hotel room, find ways to connect without overwhelming yourself. For instance, invite a friend or two to join you on your rounds and help you feel more comfortable.
“I would not be shy about introducing yourself to a “connected” person at the conference and mentioning that you are looking to meet with more event professionals,” shares PartySlate founder, Julie Roth Novak (see her live!). “I love including new people in my “group” of industry friends and I have built meaningful relationships from this conference.”
So don’t worry—the event industry is filled with friendly people who want to get to know you! Anderson suggests standing out from the crowd by “[wearing] statement pieces to break the ice. A fun necklace or eccentric patterns on clothing are surefire ways to get people to start a conversation with you!”
And rest assured, the networking doesn’t end at the end of each day’s scheduled events. Novak adds, “[t]he single best place to network is at the hotel bar! The parties can be too loud to have great conversations. A lot of the speakers and big personalities from our industry end up meeting up at the hotel bar after or before the evening events.”
Make a plan for your return.
More than likely, you’ll head home to a laundry list of to-dos waiting for you. Your clients, your business, and your team have been waiting for you! You’ll naturally want to get right back to work, but it’s best to give yourself space to decompress and apply what you’ve learned at the conference.
“Remember that a conference experience isn’t just about the time you’re onsite,” Harris reminds. “If anything, it’s the days after the conference that matter the most–because that’s when you get to process everything you’ve learned and apply it to your business.”
“I recommend padding your out-of-office responder to give yourself a few extra days upon your return,” she adds. “Otherwise, you’ll get home only to dive right back into your inbox and file away all those valuable conference takeaways for later.”
As you pack your bags, make sure to adjust your mindset to maximize your onsite experience. It will undoubtedly be a whirlwind of learning and meeting new people, but with the right preparations, you’ll be ready to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way!
All photos courtesy WTA Photos via SpotMyPhotos