For four days in May, operative millers around the world will have the chance to interact with some of the best minds in the milling industry, in one place, at one time. But if you spend more time deciding where you're going to eat dinner than you do deciding which technical sessions to attend or which booths to visit at the trade show, you're not maximizing this opportunity.
Here are a few practical ideas from the experts to help you get the most out of your visit to the 2000 A.O.M. conference and trade show.
To begin with, take a few minutes to look at the official program when you register Saturday morning, said Harvey McCray, A.O.M. executive vice-president. "If it's your first time at the conference, you need to get involved in everything and do everything you possibly can," he said.
Introduce yourself to the A.O.M. staff and tell them you want to get involved, he suggested. Go to the technical sessions and tag along with experienced millers.
"And ask questions," Mr. McCray said. "Everyone is open to questions."
You can even use the technical sessions to enhance your visit to the trade show, he said. Listen for topics and issues that impact your mill and then ask the presenter and other millers which exhibitors or suppliers can provide solutions to the problems you're having. Then get on the trade show floor and talk to exhibitors.
Roger Gelsinger, director of A.O.M. member services, suggested looking through the list of exhibitors in the program book to identify the ones you do business with, then prioritizing your visits. Also, go to the "What's New?" program and note those products that interest you, then plan to visit those exhibitors' booths.
With limited time and over 200 booths at the trade show, it's easy to lose focus and end up wandering up and down the aisles with no real purpose. "A lot of people just wander on the trade show floor and wander off, and don't gain anything," said Peter Marriott with Cereal Technologies, Inc., Millersville, Maryland, U.S.
Mr. Marriott suggested arranging meetings in advance with those suppliers you want to talk to. "If the person you want to talk to is busy, be patient," he said. "This is a small industry and people like to hang out at the booths."
Most of all, don't be embarrassed about asking questions. "That's what we're there for, to answer questions and educate people," he said.
Building relationships with people is a long-term process, Mr. Marriott said. "But a 5-minute meeting at A.O.M. may be the start of new project," he said.
Suppliers also get information from these discussions with millers, he added. Feedback from customers often ends up in design changes or new products. "At end of day, that's where we get a lot of ideas," he said.
WORK THAT FLOOR
Use these proven tips to help you more effectively work the A.O.M. trade show floor and get want you want from the suppliers you visit:
• Write a list of problems, frustrations and challenges you face in your day-to-day operations. Ask a few of your co-workers what issues they are concerned about too.
• Prioritize your list and code them "Must Solve," "Should Solve" and "Would Be Nice to Solve."
• Scan the A.O.M. program and look at exhibitors that may be able to help you address these problems or issues. Write the names and booth numbers of these companies on your list.
• Tackle high priority items first, while everyone is fresh. Work down the list of exhibitors on following visits. You may want to split up your visits in 45-minute increments and on successive days to avoid getting too tired.
• When you visit a booth, explain why you are visiting and what you hope to accomplish during your visit.
• Keep the conversation focused by asking good questions. Don't be afraid to refer to your notes.
• Know how much time you can spend with a specific exhibitor. You can get a lot done in 5 to 10 minutes when you know what you're trying to accomplish.
• Carry a small notebook or cassette recorder to capture important thoughts, ideas or data.
• Be sure to tell exhibitors what you want them to do as a result of your visit.
• If you know that an exhibitor is not the right source for your needs, politely tell them so and thank them for their time. Most exhibitors will appreciate that you didn't waste valuable time and you won't have to deal with a bunch of useless literature and phone calls after the show.