Since my introduction into the industry-which has been about seven months-I have heard all about attending the NAMA OneShow. And after months of anticipation, and about twelve hours of show interaction thus far, I’m starting to see a little of what people are talking about.
Here are several things I've learned as a vending newbie:
1. Education sessions are important, even for vending veterans: I went to three sessions this morning and although there was information presented that I had heard before, there were a few points that I sat back and thought, “Oh, I’ve never even thought about that before.” Most educational sessions will spark an “Ah-ha” moment from everyone. How do I know? Even twenty-year operators within the sessions were asking questions, wanting to know how to improve their business. If your competition is getting educated on things that you aren’t, where does that leave you?
2. There is really no need to eat lunch: No matter if attendees are on diets or eat only organic foods, there is something at the show for everyone to enjoy. I found myself with two bags of product while the majority of people had none (can someone answer for me why that is?). Perhaps it was my naivety that led me to grab everything in sight, but the point is, food and new products are still very exciting – don’t give up on trying to give that same feeling of excitement to your customers.
3. Introducing yourself to someone next to you in line could lead to a business relationship: I'm just suggesting that you never know what life will bring. Meeting new people can be hard, but here it is so easy to simply walk up to someone and start a conversation.
4. Exhibitors don’t mind when you ask the obvious question: Seven months in the industry is a drop in the bucket compared to many of you, and I left the show floor with so many questions. But for three hours exhibitors and operators didn’t even hesitate when I asked what their product was for and they patiently helped me connect many dots.
5. If you’re in the industry long enough, the OneShow is better than a class reunion: This doesn’t need much explanation; it’s something I just felt. I could feel it when I saw men and women shaking hands and giving hugs, asking how kids and grandkids were doing. I could sense that relationships were decades old and that to many, the industry is family.
So with that I challenge each and every one of you to pause for a moment and take a trip down memory lane. Where were you in life when you attended your first NAMA OneShow? Were you new to the industry? Were you in management or were you the lowest on the totem pole? What were your biggest issues and triumphs at that time? I ask this because it’s important to remember how far you’ve come since then (even if last year was your first NAMA OneShow). And it’s important to remember that that progression will continue until you return next year.