Exhibit Hall Tips for #ANC17

2017-05-16

SNA's 2017 Annual National Conference (ANC)

The following is the tenth in a series of news stories exploring the exciting opportunities and events at ANC.

For many attendees of SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC), the excitement begins to build and the adrenaline starts to pump as the countdown to officially opening the Exhibit Hall commences.

“Oh, I love going to the Exhibit Hall, it is one of my favorite parts of ANC,” exclaimed Nicole James, director of Butts County (Ga) School District. “But, make sure you wear comfortable shoes!”

With over 900 booths and 400 vendors in attendance, all the new products to discover, foods to sample and goodies to take home, for many people who are going for the first time, you may wonder, what is the best way to approach going to the Exhibit Hall?

Exhibit Hall Highlights:

Spark Sessions. These 25-minute interactive sessions will let you learn about new industry resources and give you time to “Ask the Expert” about relevant industry topics.

Culinary Demonstrations. Meet with experts who will share culinary secrets and nutrition tips to increase participation at your school.

Partner Pavilion. Here you can engage with allied organizations that share your commitment to the K-12 foodservice industry.

Wellness Village. Meet with health and wellness professionals who are ready to offer tips for healthy living and more.

New Products Showcase. Features the newest products, services and equipment available to schools within the last year.

“I remember my first conference in Philadelphia [in 2008] and feeling quite overwhelmed by the whole process,” recalled ANC 2017 Program Chair Jeremy West, CDM, SNS and director of Operations, Food and Nutrition Services at JEFFCO Public Schools in Golden, Colorado. “A good place to start is by planning ahead. As soon as I get my conference program, I will look through it and decide what I booths I want to visit and vendors I want to talk to. Then, I like to load those things in my personal calendar ahead of the event.

“I would also say, have a buddy to go around with you on the show floor; someone who has been to the Exhibit Hall before. But most important, don’t try and take every free sample and gift offered, because it is going to get very, very heavy as you walk around and you will not have enough room in your suitcase!”

However, James, veteran of 10 ANC’s said she has solved that problem.

“We take along an empty suitcase with us,” she said. “That way we can take all the samples, materials and things that we are interested in without leaving anything behind. But, because the Exhibit Hall is open for three days, I try to go for only a few hours each day to the booths with products that I want specifically to look at.”

Often times, very large gatherings of people can be a problem to the point of claustrophobia, so the next thing to consider is to find the right time to go.

“Large crowds seem to rush in at the beginning of the day so going a couple of hours later when things have kind of died down is good time to go,” suggests Cincy Jensen, M.S., RD, CD, director of School Nutrition at the School District of New Berlin, Wisconsin. “But, what I would advise, if you really want to have a good conversation with a vendor, and maybe even take home some extra samples, you might want to consider going toward the end of the last day.

“Also, what I usually tell people is wear clothes in layers because sometimes it seems like the exhibit areas are very cold, but then you go to visit a vendor who has warm food or ovens going, then, all of a sudden you are really hot. So, consider taking a light sweater or wrap because you are going to go from very cold to very hot.”

So, how much should you see?

“You’ve got to have a strategy; because if you just go through every booth in the Exhibit Hall, it is just overpowering” says Michelle Coker MA, RD, LD, SNS, director of Child Nutrition at Fayette County Public Schools in Lexington, Kentucky. “All the people from our district go as a team and then we breakup and plan to go to different parts of the Exhibit Hall; trying to hit every area. We then meet-up later and share what we have learned and what might be worthwhile for other people to go back and visit.

Register for ANC 2017:

Sound interesting? The Regular Rate registration deadline is June 12! For a complete schedule, special event and general session information, hotel and travel, Exhibit Hall information and more, visit www.schoolnutrition.org/anc or watch the ANC video.

“Another tip for those people who want to take home a lot of samples or printed material, the vendors can electronically scan your ANC badge and have that information mailed to you.”

However, as you enjoy the Exhibit Hall, there is one last tip to remember.

“Be sure and thank the vendors in the booth, that is really important,” stressed Jensen. “Thank them for coming, because without them, we would not have as great a conference.”

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