Top tips for getting the most out of visiting a trade show

Top tips for getting the most out of visiting a trade show

After living on Zoom for the past couple of years it’s marvellous to be seeing people face to face at industry events like trade shows again.

In the hospitality space there are two significant expos coming up; Fine Food in Melbourne next week (5-8 September) and Foodservice Australia in Sydney next month (23-25 October).

If you work in food or hospitality and haven’t already registered for either or both, stop reading now and register for free at and

I’ve been attending these shows for the past 25 years – as a visitor, as an exhibitor when I was with Hospitality magazine, and until recently as an organiser, with client Foodservice Australia. In February I had the privilege of managing the Bocuse d’Or Australia 2022, which gave me different angle again.

So with these credentials, here are my tips for making the most of your time at a trade show:

1.  Plan your visit
This may seem obvious, but is so often overlooked. Check out any events at the show and what time they’ll be on. Do you know anyone competing in a chef comp you want to support? Are there free seminar sessions or workshops you’d like to attend?

2. Wear comfortable shoes.
Again, this is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people turn up in high heels! You’ll be walking a lot, and the floors are hard concrete, so soft soled walking shoes are a must.

3. Do your research
Think about what you hope to see at the show. Are you in the market for some new kitchen equipment? Looking to switch coffee suppliers? Need some fresh tableware? Check out the exhibitor list of the show you are attending and take note of the stand numbers for any exhibitors you wish to see. You could also contact them beforehand to arrange a meeting at the show. If some of your regular suppliers will be there, stop by their stand and say hello to strengthen your relationship.

4. Take an exhibition guide
Usually found at the entry, these guides are a wealth of information about the show and its exhibitors. It is worth taking 10 minutes when you arrive at the show to scan the guide, mark up the floorplan with any exhibitors you want to visit, and read over what’s on for the day.

5. Scan your badge
When you see an exhibitor or product you are interested in, don’t just take a flyer and walk away. It’s easy to lose this info a week later or forget to follow up. Scanning your badge at the stand is a great way to stay in touch.

6. Don’t try and see it all at once
If you can spare the time, it’s better to do two shorter visits to the show rather than one long one. This not only spares your feet some pain (see item 2!) but also means if someone you want to see isn’t available, you can arrange to meet another day. Also these big shows can be a bit overwhelming at first, and it’s easier to get oriented on a second visit.

7. The last day is a good day
The afternoon of the last day is actually a good time to attend. Although exhibitors are often a bit tired, they are often less busy by this time and ready to discuss your needs. Also, on the last day competition winners are announced, and there is a lot of excitement in the room!

8. Prepare to be amazed
While being a devastating time for so many, the pandemic and its restrictions also inspired (and necessitated!) a lot of innovation and new product development. This is bound to be reflected at Fine Food in Melbourne and Foodservice Australia in Sydney, with many new food products – especially in the plant-based arena – and also advanced technology and artificial intelligence. It’s the most important reason to visit a trade show, to keep up to date and to gain new ideas and inspiration.

So get ready, it’s show time! Maybe I’ll see you there…

Pictured: Chef of the Year competition MC Glenn Flood chats with semi finalist Konstantin Putkin at Foodservice Australia in Melbourne in February 2022.