6 Guiding Principles of Quality Conference Content

The NRA Show, subtitled the International Foodservice Marketplace and hosted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), is well known for the high quality of its conference component. Mary Pat Heftman, NRA executive vice president of convention and strategic alliances, says that reputation is essential because, “our purpose is to help our members build customer loyalty, rewarding careers and financial success.” I

n the first of a two-part series, Heftman outlines the six essential elements necessary for a quality conference.

• Focus—Make sure every staff person knows your mission and remains true to that motivation. That effort preserves the integrity of presentation content.

• Industry knowledge—Know the industry you’re serving so well that you can identify topics of interest to your attendees. “That’s the key way you can become most successful,” Heftman says.

You’ll already know (or are able to find) the experts in related fields. They can be industry leaders, business owners or writers.

• Expertise—“The speakers on our docket are educators, operators, consultants,” Heftman says. Vendors rarely present at the Marketplace because their content isn’t focused on education. “It comes off to the listener as not being objective.”

• Never look back—What are the hottest concepts? Who in the in the industry is doing something new or innovative with an industry standard? “Always look forward,” Hetman says.

• Vetting required—Expect and review filmed presentations by potential speakers. Get references and make the calls. Make sure the presenter is skilled. And after the presentation, make sure the audience gives a high, positive rating.

—Capture institutional knowledge. “A name will come up and we’ll get, ‘That guy is a perpetual problem, always trying to…sell something,’” Heftman says. “We’ve got great records and keep a lot of great data.”

Ultimately, making quality content available to participants has to be the priority, Heftman says.

“You’ve got to believe in it, in its value and its value to your audience. You have to protect it with the same level you would protect a revenue source.”

Tomorrow: Part 2—Keynote Speaker Success

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