By Chuck Anderson
Published on Sunday, March 19, 2017
It’s show time again. Whether you are seasoned veteran or a first-time attendee, here are my tips for seafood buyers looking to get the most out of Seafood Expo North America.
1.) Wear comfortable shoes. I have seen more than one wise man in a dress suit with dark tennis shoes.
2.) Add an extra day. Come to Boston a day early or stay a day after if you can. Have you ever stayed in downtown Boston on St. Patrick’s Day? You can live enough stories and take photos to keep your Facebook page the talk of your inner circle for a week.
A better reason to add an extra day in your itinerary is to visit to local seafood processors and distributors. There is nothing like seeing the fish business first hand, up close and personal. Several outstanding Boston seafood processors are more than happy to show you their operations. Gloucester, New Bedford and Fall River plant tours are available. New Bedford is home to several large scallop processors. Fish and scallop auction takes place about 6 a.m. daily in New Bedford and Gloucester. Talk to your New England fresh fish supplier about seeing boats unload or touring the auctions.
Do not rent a car, or drive to the show. Get the Uber or Lyft app, sign up, and save yourself the hassle of driving and parking downtown.
3.) Hydrate and refuel. Bring a protein bar or a piece of beef jerky. Show samples are fine, but not a great meal.
4.) Build Relationships. Much of the show is about finding new products and ideas for sure, but this is a people business. Building relationships is more important than ever for successful buyers. With raw materials and sustainable resources getting scarcer, building key long term supplier relationships is critical. Boston is where that happens.
5.) Do not overbook your schedule. It is OK to say no. If you don’t need to meet with a supplier, why meet without an agenda? Deals can be made any day.
If you need to get a deal done, have a meeting, get it done. However, most significant business decisions can be made after the show. Making multi-thousand dollar decisions, or multi-million dollar decisions, in the seafood show environment can be a mistake. We all have pressure to produce a return on investment for business travel expense, but do not over commit what you can get done in two or three days.
6.) Plan time to walk the show. Tuesday is a great day to walk the show and ask questions. Take time to dig a little deeper and visit booths that you are tempted to walk on by.
7.) Keep moving and don’t linger. Once you have discovered a possible new supplier or product, get a business card, make a note on the back and move on.
8.) Lay low when walking the show. Black Key buyer badges are awesome. Having access to the key buyers lounge is a luxury, if it is available to you. Take advantage of the lounge to get off your feet, change shoes, charge the cell phone and call the office. However, wearing a black key buyer badge is like wearing honey to a bee farm. Sometimes, it helps to turn your badge around, or use a regular badge holder for a couple hours to walk the isles searching out new vendors, products and ideas.
9.) Use business cards to take notes on the back of the card. This is my favorite tip. Lugging around a tote bag full of flyers and folders gets old, fast. Printed materials are available on line or via email. Ask for a business card, make a detailed note on the back of the card about what is interesting. Make a note on every card, even if the note is an X or a dash because you have no interest. You will be very happy you made notes when back in the office.
10.) There is always something new and much to learn at the show. Spend time to ask questions. My favorite questions are “What do you have new this year?” and “Teach me something I can share with my team?” “What are you working on for next year?” Sometimes, you find a company, sometimes you find a product, sometimes you find ideas.
11.) Take a photo of what interests you most. Don’t overdo it. Too many photos are hard to manage.
12.) Bring a cellphone recharger. A backup phone charger is about USD 10 online. SSPI has cell phone chargers available at booth 3221 and in meeting room 156B too.
Take 15 minutes to follow up on the most important meetings each day. This can be done before or after dinner, or first thing next morning. Try making notes while the memory is fresh.
Schedule two to three hours after returning home to go through notes and follow up. Do it while the memories are fresh
Best wishes for a healthy and productive Seafood Expo North America.