Five days, 115 events and a mega heap of calories (calories don’t count on business trips anyways). That’s how I kicked off March at the 11th Annual Charleston Food & Wine Festival, one of the Southeast’s leading celebrations of award-winning chefs and culinary virtuosos.
It would have been easy to get swept away in the revelry, and I certainly had the pleasure of enjoying exquisite food with great company. But I also developed strategic touchstones to ensure that my trip was first and foremost a successful, profitable investment for Clairemont’s client, Il Palio.
1. Cook up a tasty teaser.
Large food festivals are a barrage of sights, sounds and smells pelting your senses. In these situations, you may only get a few precious minutes with a contact. Develop a short, powerful “headline,” a version of an elevator speech, to showcase your restaurant, chef or dish. In addition to the standard facts, highlight one eye-popping feature as a memorable hook. For example, don’t settle for “this chef cooks regional Italian;” specify that he evokes regional Italian flavors by using smoke as a secret ingredient.
Be confident yet casual. At heart, we’re all just a bunch of foodies enjoying some great grub together.
2. Pack the right cookware.
Well-planned food festivals often provide tools to facilitate connection, from an event hashtag to a festival app — like the one the Charleston Wine & Food Festival offered in 2015. Create a note or document on your phone with hashtags and handles categorized by event, topic or chef, readily available to copy and paste into your next post. Research, download and master the right video or photo editing apps (one of our new faves is VSCO) that will enable you to capture the vibrant colors and fast-paced action.
And honestly, pockets are your best friend — perfect for stowing business cards, gum, small phone chargers and even a plastic wine glass. It happened.
3. Jot to jog.
Jot down notes to jog your memory when you return home. Keep quick reminders on your phone’s note-taking app. Empty your pockets each evening and scrawl a quick reminder on each business card, including who the person was, where you met them and any pertinent conversation points. No lie: when I returned home, I had emblazoned one of my contact’s cards with “purse snatcher.” The trick worked, though!
4. After the meal, order dessert.
Follow up. This sounds like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised by how many people dodge this step or only give it a half-hearted attempt. Gauge the level of the relationship you’ve sparked with your contacts (fueled by your well-kept notes, of course) and craft a plan to connect within five days.
The goal isn’t to cash in on transactions but to foster relationships. Naturally, interested prospects with a clear next step and an enticing, value-added tidbit. For more casual contacts, send them an invitation on LinkedIn, a Facebook message, a Twitter video or an Instagram recollecting a shared moment. Retweet, repost, share and keep the fun going!
…and this is just the tip of the fork! Check out Clairemont’s other strategies to make the most out of your food events.