Over a year later, wedding and event pros are gearing up for the return to the co-located The Special Event + Catersource conferences. It comes as no surprise that this year’s trip to Miami won’t be “business as usual”–instead, we’re all likely sharing the same feelings of excitement and relief after a rough period.
For many, this will be the first time seeing our peers in-person since last March, so your networking skills may feel a bit rusty. As important as it is to catch up with everyone, it’s also equally important that you plan ahead to maximize the education and resources at your fingertips.
To prepare, we rounded up some recent attendees and speakers to share their thoughts.
First, get into the right mindset
As with any conference, you want to make sure that the ROI is worth the money and time away from your business.
“Catersource and TSE fall in line with the old adage, ‘you get what you put into it,’” explains long-time attendee and Catersource speaker Renee Miner of Empyrean Events. “The connections made at these conferences are just as valuable as the educational content and oftentimes prove to be more long lasting. If you approach the conference with an open mind you will likely find others who share similarities in your business scope, challenges, and successes. These are the individuals you will connect with long after the conference is over and lean on in times when you need advice or suggestions.”
Next, register for the Catersource + The Special Event Pep Rally!
As we celebrate the upcoming Catersource + The Special Event along with the positive momentum and industry reopening, we want to arm you with the info you need to succeed, which is why we will be hosting the FREE Catersource + The Special Event Pep Rally virtually on June 2 from 2:30-4:00pm EDT.
Get answers to your most pressing issues as 6 thought leaders share answers to your top questions! This is your opportunity to receive actionable insights in just 90 minutes.
- Meryl Snow: How do you sell events post COVID?
- Dima Ghawi: How do you hire for diversity & inclusion?
- Chef Greg Taylor: How do you build beautiful buffets with COVID considerations?
- Julia Kendrick Conway: How do you reopen your events safely?
- Anthony Lambatos: How do you lead with while dealing with hiring challenges?
- Michael Cerbelli: How do we comeback #eventstrong?
Carve out time for a preview of the July event as well as get the answers you need.
The Special Event, co-located with The Catersource Conference & Tradeshow, is heading to Miami July 19 – 22, 2021. Immerse yourself in an inspiring and safe event focused on the new trends and opportunities in events and catering. Learn more
Register here. Access link will be provided via email prior to the event.
Make sure to do your homework
The lineup of topics, speakers, and the tradeshow exhibits will be incredibly invaluable, especially as we continue to navigate the road to recovery. You don’t want to get to the convention center without a solid game plan.
“Before heading to the conference, study the education program and map out what you want to see—whether they’re compelling topics or speakers that you want to meet,” shares conference speaker Meryl Snow of SnowStorm Solutions. “Use the Catersource app to schedule your itinerary so you can stay on track! If you are attending with other people in your company, make sure to split up to cover more ground. You don’t need to be together all the time and you’ll be able to multiply your educational and networking efforts when you’re all separate.”
Photo courtesy WASIO Photography
TSE Attendee Chelsea Roy of Everything but the Ring agrees, “Maximize every day and hour by planning ahead! Schedule yourself for as MANY sessions that are of interest to you as possible, both for your specific business and otherwise. Variety will keep you interested and you'll meet new colleagues and learn exciting new things! Don't treat this like a vacation before you get the work done, or you'll lose momentum and inevitably feel like you didn't get out of it what you could have."
Get ready to talk
After getting used to connecting via Zoom, the idea of reuniting face-to-face can be a tad bit daunting – especially if you’re looking to make some new contacts.
“Polish your elevator pitch,” advises TSE and Catersource speaker Shannon Tarrant, founder of Wedding Venue Map. “We are often used to giving our short personal commercials locally, but it may need an update if chatting to people from a different area of the country. Think about how it makes sense to connect and explain what sets you apart in a quick 60 seconds.”
Streamline your networking
It can be overwhelming to dive back into conference networking, so make sure you have put systems in place to save time, and maximize efforts on site.
“Save yourself as a contact in your phone including your photo, social handles, website and anyway for people to contact you,” adds Tarrant. “When you meet someone new, business cards are great but it's sometimes easier to just exchange the contact. You can text or email them directly by "sharing" yourself as a contact.”
Be available beyond the sessions + Tradeshow
Give yourself some leeway when it comes to your schedule. Be mindful of making the most out of each day, but when the sessions come to a close, this is your time to open up to social opportunities.
Brittny Drye of Love Inc. Magazine notes: “So much of the conference is about the networking that happens off the tradeshow floor so be sure to make yourself available. I always make sure that no work needs to be tackled during the conference (pre scheduling posts/social) so that I’m able to meet people on a whim. ‘Want to grab cocktails after this presentation?’ Sure! ‘Can you meet for breakfast tomorrow morning?’ Absolutely! It’s these situations where I’ve found to have the most in-depth conversations and connections.”
Don’t forget to have fun
For TSE Speaker Nora Sheils, Co-Founder of Rock Paper Coin and Founder of Bridal Bliss, it’s also important to remember to have a little fun. She says, “Sure you will want to prep in advance and nail down all the presentations to attend, but conferences like these are a great opportunity to let loose, connect with fellow event pros, and have a good time! Schedule some dinners or get-togethers to throw back some cocktails, further your relationships, and have a good time. All that education can make your head spin so make time for a little fun!”
Welcome to Miami
Take advantage of the beautiful city and culture while you can! It’s easy to get caught up in sticking to a set schedule with the wealth of education but make time to explore the area.
Photo courtesy Atlas Event Rentals
TSE Speaker and Miami resident Michelle Loretta of Be Sage Consulting shares, “Miami is more than just the beach! In fact, some of the most interesting parts are over the bridges, in the City of Miami. Make sure to venture west to check out the Wynwood Walls and the Design District for art and style. If you want to get real local food flavors, dig into Little Havana and what we call the 'Saguesera' (the Southwest areas of Miami). Of course, you've heard of Versaille for Cuban food, but the lesser touristy Doce Provisions, La Casita, and El Rey de las Fristas are all local favorites too. Cafe La Trova for drinks and nightlife is a must for true Miami living. Coconut Grove, traditionally known for its bohemian style, is a treasure trove of delicious restaurants and lovely shops. Some favorites include Ariete, Peacock Garden, and Spillover.”
As much as we’re all looking forward to getting back into the groove of ‘normal’ industry conferences, it’s important to remember how hard we worked to stay afloat and get to this point. This will undoubtedly feel much different compared to years prior, but let’s not forget to make the most of it!