Trade shows are a marketing investment, a networking opportunity, a place where contracts are signed and deals made – but that’s not all. They also offer countless learning opportunities.
Workshops, seminars, market research… there are many ways in which trade shows can further your industry knowledge and help you (and your staff) master new skills. And with so many options in just one exhibition hall, you can see a great return for very little investment.
Vanessa Facenda, Editor at Bell Publishing which runs the Tea and Coffee World Cup trade show, agreed to talk to me about how you can make the most of these opportunities. She’s organising most of the classes for the next show, which will run from the 3rd to 5th September 2018 in Birmingham, the UK. Here are her recommendations.
Lee este artículo en español Ferias Comerciales: Oportunidades Para Aprender Sobre el Café
Anne Cooper, Coffee Roasting Consultant at Equilibrium Master Roasters, leads a workshop on coffee’s sensory aspects at Tea & Coffee World Cup 2017. Credit: Tea and Coffee World Cup
Know Your Trade Show
No two trade shows are the same. Attending the right one will be crucial to achieving your goals, so do your research. Understand exactly what each show is about, what will be programmed, and who will be attending.
Tea and Coffee World Cup, for example, is a B2B trade show focusing on tea, coffee, and chocolate. Other events might have more of a B2C focus or even be public-facing.
Look up the workshops, seminars, and training opportunities at each show. Find out who will be leading them, if you have to pay more to attend them, and as much as you can about their content. Check the timetable: will you be able to attend most of the program, or do many of the events run at the same time?
Make yourself a personal event schedule, complete with locations, and save it on your phone. Ideally, you would set up a reminder to go off 20 minutes before each workshop or presentation you’re hoping to attend – this is enough time for you to wrap up your current conversation without being rude and then make your way to the location.
And in particular, watch out for these opportunities:
Australian Tea Masters lead a class at Tea & Coffee World Cup 2017. Credit: Tea and Coffee World Cup
1. Cuppings & Tastings
One of the best things about a trade show is the cupping/tasting sessions. You get the opportunity to taste new coffees, discover lots you’d like to buy, understand the direction the industry is moving in, calibrate your expectations, and more.
Before you go to the event, check out the cupping schedule. Some may be origin-specific, some exporter-specific. Others may be award-winning – Vanessa tells me that, at Tea & Coffee World Cup in September, “The Alliance for Coffee Excellence will be holding a special session featuring Cup of Excellence Award-winning coffees from Africa that will be going up for auction.”
Plan ahead. Add cupping and tasting sessions to your schedule and make sure you know your aims for each one. By going prepared with a list of things to look for, and (if relevant) questions to ask, you will get a lot more out of the experience.
Attendees cup coffees from Bero Coffee Singapore at Tea and Coffee World Cup 2017. Credit: Neil McRitchie
2. Workshops & Training
How often do leading trainers give workshops within just a few hundred metres of you? The answer to that question might depend on which trade shows you go to.
Not all trade shows have workshops and training opportunities. However, those that do can provide a valuable opportunity to learn from some of the industry’s best – while also networking with fellow students and learners from around the world.
Workshops can cover technical skills, business management, sustainability, technology, and more. Vanessa tells me that, at Tea & Coffee World Cup, their classes range from “cupping to sourcing to storing to grading, as well as aroma and sensory training, blending, and brewing”. They also have on-site and hands-on roasting workshops, taking advantage of their access to the latest machinery.
Before you attend a trade show, look at the workshops on offer and work out which ones will benefit you. Add them to your schedule. And, perhaps most importantly of all, go prepared. Research the topic beforehand. Outline what you hope to learn. Think of the questions that you would like to ask. Because after all, this workshop will only happen once.
Hands-on roasting workshops at Tea and Coffee World Cup 2017. Credit: Neil McRitchie
3. Industry & Market Insights
It’s essential to stay up-to-date with industry trends and understand how the market is evolving. And trade shows offer the perfect platform for this. With guest speakers from around the world, you can attend lectures on the industry’s most pressing issues and gain insights into the global context.
At Tea & Coffee World Cup, for example, topics being discussed include the UK’s changing specialty coffee culture, coffee hedging for roasters and trading, and plastic-free/biodegradable tea bags.
What’s more, you’ll learn about industry trends simply by wandering around the exhibition hall and talking to fellow attendees. Pay attention to what’s being discussed. Ask the experts their opinions. See what trends the newest releases highlight.
Industry leaders from sinas GmbH & Co. KG teach attendees about tea tasting at Tea and Coffee World Cup 2017. Credit: Neil McRitchie
So, now that we’ve gone over several learning opportunities you’ll be able to find at your next trade show, you’re ready to book your ticket. Just remember to:
- Research, research, and research. Know everything there is to know about your chosen trade show.
- Plan ahead. Create your schedule. Research topics. Go prepared with questions.
- Highlight the opportunities that best align with your business goals, whether that’s workshops, cupping sessions, or seminars.
- Learn by listening! Pay attention to what everyone is talking about, the new products on display, and more.
- Network. You can learn a lot from the connections you make at international industry events.
An industry trade show offers you many opportunities. But in between marketing your business, inspecting equipment and supplies, and meeting potential clients, take the time to also check out the educational opportunities. They can be just as invaluable.
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