By Lisa Abbay, RDN, LDN, FAND – Talent Acquisition Manager, Compass Group Talent Acquisition supporting Morrison Healthcare; Commission on Dietetic Registration, Commissioner
This week, our team is heading to FNCE® to mix and mingle with the best and brightest food & nutrition experts. As a Talent Acquisition Manager, I’ve found networking conferences like FNCE® spark professional relationships which can help people find employment, gain professional knowledge and even add value for entrepreneurs. We’re so excited for what’s ahead but know networking events can be really intimidating for people.
If you don’t know how to approach networking conferences, it’s tough to get the most out of them, much less enjoy yourself! These events are about making a great and lasting first impression, so it’s important to be yourself and have fun all while learning something new and building relationships.
There’s a saying that failing to plan is planning to fail. While that’s not always the case in real life, it certainly applies to maximizing your experience at networking events. Regardless of if you plan to attend FNCE® for one day or the entire event, have a plan.
Begin your plan by asking yourself what your motives and goals are for attending:
Next, follow these tips to plan for success and rock the conference whether it’s your first or 50th time:
Review the Agenda
Before arriving at FNCE®, review the agenda and know which sessions and potentially what booths in the expo you would like to attend. Be sure to download the FNCE® App to create a personalized agenda. Use the My Plan section to map out all the sessions you want to attend. Remember, you don’t have to follow your plan to a “T,” but this will help you maximize each day. Give yourself permission to veer from the plan if you find out about a more applicable session or something else not laid out on the agenda. We all know there will be a book signing in the expo hall or a great give away that will allure even the most vigilant planners!
Tell the World and Your Friends that You’re Going Before You Arrive
Reach out to your friends, peers, and colleagues and find out who’s going. For food and nutrition professionals, there is no better time or place than FNCE® to network. In the days leading up to FNCE® post to your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn profiles and ask who’s attending this year. Don’t simply wait to run into people at FNCE®, instead reach out to them now. You’ll have a better idea of who will be in the room before you walk in. Don’t be afraid to make appointments with these people either. You may need to book time on their calendars to ensure you catch up with people who are most important to you.
Have an Open Mind to Meeting New People
At FNCE® you will find nutrition science researchers, policy makers, health-care providers, marketing experts, industry leaders from all over the world; network and tap into their knowledge while they are all in the same place. Who knows…you may meet your next employer or a future business partner. I’ve had countless people reach out to me years later saying they met me at FNCE®! How cool is that?
Backpack or Briefcase
Save your back! I personally like a backpack because you can walk and network easily. It’s been a lifesaver and allows most to be super organized! You can carry a notebook to take notes, pen, your business cards, (throw a pair of comfy shoes if you need them for later), snacks and some expo hall trinkets from booths in there, as well. If you’re a briefcase or over the shoulder bag person, beware. Usually, by the end of the day, your shoulder is killing you!
First, be sure to bring plenty of business cards. You will need these while you network throughout the conference and expo hall. Tip: there will be many booths that will have giveaways that you will want to drop off your business card in. If you are an undergraduate or new grad and currently not employed, there is still time to either design your own business cards at home, then print or order them for quick delivery from a company, like Vista Print in time for FNCE®.
Chargers for All Your Devices
Stay charged! In today’s world of technology, the worst thing to do is having your device/phone die in the middle of the conference and not be able to take selfies or type your notes during one of the most important sessions. Carry a portable charger with you at all times and be sure to bring it with you in case you have downtime. You may also want to bring an iPad or a laptop with you if you need something to stay connected other than your phone.
Your Elevator Speech
Do you have your 3-minute introduction ready about yourself for when you meet someone new? Have you practiced it? You actually need to have this ready and practiced before arriving at FNCE® – a lot of people think this sounds crazy but, practice ahead of time. Make sure your elevator speech includes what makes you different to capture your listener’s attention.
If I have time (as in, I’m not really in an elevator and have more than a few seconds), I ask people I meet if they have checked out a specific booth I already visited. Questions like these pique my listener’s interest and make our conversation more memorable. Have just a few of these small conversational gems in your hip pocket.
Divide and Conquer
If you are attending with co-workers and/or friends, be sure to divide and conquer. This will help your entire group maximize their experience by getting information from as many sessions as possible – even if you physically aren’t in the room. Make note of tips, tricks and highlights to take back to your group and company. Debrief with your people after the expo each day, share your thoughts on each session and be sure to email each other your notes when you return home.
Connect with People and Companies on Your List
Here’s where your plan comes in handy! When you arrive, don’t be overwhelmed all the people and companies represented. Consult your list and then make your way through the center to interact with people most important to you. Be sure to visit booths – they provide a natural entry point to connect with companies during FNCE®.
If you know there is a prospective employer/company you would like to meet with at FNCE®, schedule an appointment to arrange a face to face meeting. Every Monday, FNCE® does a great job highlighting the Center for Career Opportunities. This is a perfect chance for you while you are at FNCE® to visit the Academy Pavilion, Expo Hall B, and visit with companies interested in hiring nutrition professionals like you. You can always engage with companies during the expo at exhibits, as well, however, the Center for Career Opportunities is a more intimate setting and smaller scene for you to connect with employers or individuals employed by the company.
Leverage Social Media
Events can generate tons of buzz on social media, join the conversation!
Participate using official hashtags and handles. Let the companies you want to visit know you’re coming to their booth by mentioning them on Twitter and Instagram.
You may meet someone through social media or someone may reach out to you that you may not have ever met otherwise.
Connect with Morrison Healthcare on social during FNCE® 2018
Thank the People You Met
The one thing most people forget is that the networking doesn’t end when you leave FNCE® or stop when you head home. Networking continues for the whole year until the next time you attend FNCE®.
Plan to sit down the week after returning home to send a brief email to everyone you met. Don’t forget to connect via LinkedIn with those people while FNCE® is still fresh on everyone’s mind – the sooner, the better. Let every single one of them know you enjoyed meeting them. Send something that will make them remember you in the future.
There’s no better place than FNCE® to take control of your career. Make the most of your time at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo this year in DC and have fun!
Morrison is a proud part of the Compass Group family and will be at the Compass Group booth. Our main booth is No. 1317. Beginning Monday, Compass Group will have a career booth at No. 3021.
Be sure to check out available team member or management opportunities to join the Compass One Healthcare and Morrison Healthcare family. We believe in the Power of Food to change lives and are proud of the opportunities we have each day to help people and serve alongside world-class clients.
*PS – Morrison Healthcare is a FNCE® 2018 Sponsor. The views represented in this post, belong solely to Morrison Healthcare and are not part of any co-messaging with the Academy, The Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ or its attendees. Morrison Healthcare is not getting anything in return from the Academy or the The Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ for this post.