Why In-Person Foodservice Events and Networking are Essential

In today’s digitally dominated world, made even more digital post-pandemic, it’s no secret that in-person networking has become underutilized. Not only are meetings and media interviews often conducted online, but there has been an uptick in conferences moving to virtual platforms. The overreliance on virtual interactions may have financial and logistical benefits, but face-to-face meetings provide invaluable moments to connect and forge long-lasting partnerships. Attending the IFEC (International Foodservice Editorial Council) Conference was a recent reminder that nothing proves more meaningful than in-person connections.

IFEC aims to bring editors and communications professionals together to exchange ideas, share resources and discuss editorial content for foodservice-engaged readers. Each year, the council hosts a conference with media meet-and-greets, seminars, guest speakers, chef showcases, trend sessions and myriad opportunities for attendees to network. Over the course of the 2023 IFEC Conference, our Food + Beverage team met with several editors of leading print and digital foodservice publications. Topics ranged from consumer insights and foodservice trends to editorial priorities for the upcoming year. These face-to-face interactions with editors provided vital insights, helping streamline future media relations efforts.

According to a report by Forbes, 85% of professionals said they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships during in-person meetings and conferences. Additionally, a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that 95% of participants said that face-to-face meetings are key to successful long-term relationships. The authenticity inherent in the personal connections made at the IFEC Conference foster a level of trust and rapport which is more challenging to achieve online. The opportunity for immediate feedback during in-person interactions provides a significant advantage over email and promotes more effective communications. The ability to instantly gauge subtleties of body language, tone and physical reactions allows for real-time adjustments, clarifications and deepened discussions. The natural ebb and flow of in-person conversations can also take surprising twists and illuminate synergies between clients and editors. For example, learning that an editor had recently switched to a gluten-free diet led to a personal discussion about ways to adapt holiday entertaining recipes with a client’s gluten-free grains.

Physical presence at an industry conference can strengthen your visibility and recognition in the field, providing avenues for serendipitous connections with other professionals from diverse backgrounds. In-person networking can broaden perspectives and unveil opportunities that might have remained undiscovered in a purely digital context. Face-to-face events also serve as a platform to refine communication and people skills.

While digital foodservice events and networking has its place, it should enhance – not replace – in-person networking. Our experience at the IFEC Conference underscores the importance of face-to-face interactions in building meaningful professional relationships. Balancing digital and in-person networking allows communications professionals to leverage the strengths of both by fostering trust, enabling effective communication, enhancing visibility, facilitating unexpected encounters, and cultivating deep, enduring connections.

Despite understanding the benefits of in-person networking events, it can still be a daunting task to identify worthwhile opportunities to invest in. If you’re interested in learning more about the 2024 food and beverage industry events to leverage for your brand, connect with us.

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