It’s that time of year! Dietitians from around the nation have FNCE fever and are gearing up for the biggest event of the year – the 2016 Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo! This year the conference is in historic downtown Boston – will you be there? With over 8,000 dietitians expected to attend, FNCE hosts over 400 food and beverage exhibitors and 130 research and educational presentations, lectures, panel discussions and culinary demonstrations. Whether this is your first year to the conference or you are a seasoned FNCE veteran, below are ten tips to consider before you go!
This is a FNCE essential for everyone! Download the FNCE 2016 app…like right now…go and do it. The app will allow you to keep conference information, program guides, speaker schedules, session handouts, and event maps at your fingertips once you are onsite! Not only does the app help you organize your session schedule by adding your favorite events to your personal calendar, but you can also capture notes directly in the app under each session you attend [insert cheers from Type A dietitians around the nation].
QUICK TIP – When you meet someone in the exhibit hall, take note of their name and your conversation on the app in the Exhibitor List so you can reach back out to them later!
Plan Your Sessions
Identify all of the sessions you want to attend, cocktail parties you want to make an appearance at and board meetings you need to participate in. Add it all to your calendar and get yourself organized.
QUICK TIP – With an organized schedule you can easily identify breaks in your schedule to meet up with clients, dine out with friends or squeeze in a workout.
Meet with Friends
Which leads me to my next tip, catch up with old friends and make new ones while also enjoying the host city! But plan ahead would ya? Email old and new friends today and ask them what their FNCE schedule looks like so you can seamlessly connect once in town.
QUICK TIP – Do a little research on great places to eat and grab a drink so you don’t waste time onsite deciding where to go. Check out these awesome guides: Today’s Dietitian: The Best of Boston Dining and Boston, MA Visitor’s Guide: What to Do + Where to Eat
Update your Social Accounts and Business Cards
Do this before you leave. Make sure all of your social accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and your business cards are all up-to-date with your current contact information.
QUICK TIP – DO NOT forget your business cards. There are countless opportunities to network and trade contact information with other dietitians – you don’t want to be caught empty handed.
FNCE is a business casual conference. And with long busy days packed with education sessions, meetings and social events, you will want to look polished and be comfortable. Consider comfortable flat shoes (you’ll be walking a lot), outfits that don’t wrinkle easily (you’ll also be sitting a lot), and items that layer easily (you can never predict the temperature in a convention center). Keep in mind that you will likely be out from morning to dark without stopping back at the hotel to change so choose your outfits strategically. Dietitian Charlene Thomas has some great tips on what to wear to a conference. Also, don’t forget your workout clothes if you plan to hit the gym and always leave room in your suitcase to bring home a few goodies from the exhibit hall!
QUICK TIP -Bring a large professional tote to carry around with you at the conference. Toss in a cardigan, a pair of heels, a clutch, a piece of statement jewelry and some touch up makeup to help you transform from day to evening in any public restroom with ease!
Practice your Elevator Pitch
Two of the most popular questions asked when networking at FNCE are: What area of dietetics do you work in? What brought you to FNCE this year? So, be prepared for these questions and have answers ready ahead of time. And not just one word answers; share the details about what you do – what is unique about your place of employment? What are some projects you are working on? Do you manage a team? Are you at FNCE on behalf of your employer, a client or for personal professional development? What are you looking to get out of the conference (i.e. network for a new job, learn about a new area of nutrition practice, meet like-minded people)?
QUICK TIP – Write your elevator pitch down on paper and practice it on the plane ride to FNCE. Trust me, it helps to have a basic script so you don’t leave out any important details that you want to others to know about you.
Network, Network, Network!
Networking is hard work, even for the most social of people. But there’s no excuse to be a wallflower and in fact, you’ll kick yourself later if you don’t make the most of your time at FNCE and meet as many dietitians as you can! Don’t be afraid to jump into a conversation. A simple “excuse me I don’t mean to interrupt, but can I jump in here and join the conversation? I’m [insert name] by the way” always works.
QUICK TIP – Be the first to ask others for their business card before handing yours out. Make a comment about someone’s card before packing it away with the rest of the cards you’ve collected (try “I see you’re located in [insert location], what’s that like?” or “I see you’re a [insert job title], how long have you been in that role?”). When you get back to your hotel room every night, make a list of the names of everyone you met, connect with them on LinkedIn or social media, and follow up with them after FNCE with a personal message.
Know How to Get Around
Get a lay of the land of the host city before you go. Where is your hotel located in relation to the convention center? Is there a FNCE shuttle stop at or near your hotel? FNCE offers an easy to use, free shuttle service that picks up attendees from various locations to take them to and from the convention center throughout the conference. Beyond the event shuttle, be sure to research other modes of transportation – are the events you plan to attend within walking distance from the convention center or will you need to hail a taxi or Uber? Is the public transportation system tourist friendly? Will you need to rent a car or arrange for a shared shuttle to take you to and from the airport?
QUICK TIP – Suggest ride sharing with existing and new friends when possible. With thousands of dietitians in the same city, it’s likely that you aren’t the only one headed to a specific event. Offer to split an Uber or taxi with others – not only does this save money, but it also offers yet another opportunity to network with new faces on your way to the event!
Prepare for the Unexpected
FNCE is full of spontaneous social invitations and plans can change in an instant. Be prepared to go with the flow. Have extra cash on hand, pack a phone charger in your purse, and bring a water bottle and a couple small snacks to keep you energized throughout the day.
QUICK TIP – Hanging out by the electrical outlet to charge your electronics can be limiting. Don’t let the need for battery keep you from sticking to your schedule and networking with friends. Pack a portable phone charger or power pack so you can charge on the go!
Dietitians at FNCE are social media crazy. Whether it’s tweeting session slides, snapping photos with other RDs in the exhibit hall or capturing group interactions at social events be sure to tag speakers, friends and new acquaintances to increase your visibility and reach!
QUICK TIP – Connect to the conference Wi-Fi immediately so you don’t drain your data plan on social media. Use the hashtag #FNCE and don’t be afraid to ask new friends for their social media handle!