Pizza Expo provides an incredible opportunity to pack years of potential research into three quick days, but if you dive straight into the deep end you might drown in the options. I’ve been attending since 2006 and my strategy has improved immensely over the years. Learn from my mistakes and heed these Pizza Expo tips for getting the most out of the big event.
Going to Pizza Expo without an agenda is a surefire way to get lost in the sauce. Whip up a list of objectives before you even look at the show schedule. Are there personnel problems in your shop? Is your dough always blowing? There’s a good chance Expo has solutions, but you need to know your questions first.
- Start with Seminars
Vendors will be on the show floor for the duration of each event day but you’ll only have one shot to see each seminar. The schedule is on the Expo website as well as in print with this very magazine’s special insert so there’s no excuse for missing something valuable. Find the events that will help fulfill your goals and add them to your phone’s calendar. Set up notifications and switch your phone to vibrate (you’ll never hear your ringer on the show floor). You can visit vendors in between.
- Divide and Conquer
If traveling with multiple team members, divvy up assignments and share takeaways at the end of each day. You can cover more turf and worry less about missing something important. If you have managers, pizza makers and other staff in tow you can assign each group to attend seminars and demos that will benefit their responsibilities directly.
- Don’t Eat Everything
Mindlessly devouring samples is a waste of time and stomach space. Understand what the vendor is exhibiting before you partake in their samples. If it’s a meat company, pick the sausage off the sample slice and discard the rest. Don’t waste precious capacity with a component that’s not the vendor’s main concern. Usually the only companies that concentrate on their dough are the flour vendors.
- Bring Snacks
I know I just told you to watch what you eat, but the right snacks will prevent you from making bad decisions. I like to have a bag of trail mix on hand. Nuts and raisins are good for sustained energy and avoiding an empty stomach means you won’t be tempted to gobble down that sample you don’t need. A refillable water bottle is also important. Las Vegas is dry so you’ll need the constant access to hydration. Wine, beer and soda are easy to find at the show. Water isn’t.
- Attend the After Parties
Lots of vendors sponsor parties for present and potential customers. These are great networking opportunities so you’re likely to walk away with new contacts. Just ask around and see if you can score an invite first; it’s bad form to barge in on someone else’s party.
Not every event is listed on the schedule. Leave yourself some wiggle room so you can say YES to opportunities that present themselves along the way. Some of my best Expo experiences were completely unanticipated. When you bring thousands of talented pizza makers together, it’s bound to lead somewhere interesting.
Scott Wiener is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org.