6 Steps to Quality General Session Content

The International Foodservice Marketplace, hosted by the National Restaurant Association, is known for the quality of its conference presentations. Mary Pat Heftman, executive vice president of convention and strategic alliances, says that reputation is essential—and there are ways to make it so.

Stay focused—Make sure every staff person knows your mission and remains true to it.

Keep in touch—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.

Find the experts—“The speakers on our docket are educators, operators, consultants,” Heftman says. Vendors rarely present at the Marketplace because they’re 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.

Vet the speakers—Expect and review filmed presentations by potential speakers. Get references and make the calls. Make sure the presenter is skilled.

Keep records—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 keep a lot of great data.”