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On the Road Again

On the Road Again


With the return of trade shows, conventions, expos, and meetings, excitement is in the air!

I’m writing this in late April, and recently received my second vaccination. This means I’m getting back on the road, along with most everyone else, shaking hands, kissing babies, and networking. Okay, so maybe no baby kissing, but you get the point. 

My last plane trip was in March 2020. Since then, meetings on Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, phone, text, etc. have been my only means of communication. All of these platforms are great, and I’m sure our world has changed forever in many ways because of them. But there is no replacement for in-person interaction. I love attending events, seeing my old friends, and making new ones. Personally, engaging with our “produce family” has always been essential to success, and, quite frankly, a favorite part of my produce life.

Back in 2017, I wrote a story about preparing for in-person events such as trade shows, and then how to maximize our experiences once we’re there. I’d love to take credit for this “2.0” version of that story, but the truth is that John Pandol, the Director of Special Projects at Pandol Bros as well as a friend and fellow “road warrior” who attends events across the globe, suggested it. Thank you, John!

To refresh, a little preparation goes a long way. This is a lesson I have learned the hard way a few times over the years.

In the over 200 industry events I’ve attended, I have seen that if you come adequately prepared, you can do more than just survive, you can actually THRIVE. 

In planning and preparing for conventions and trade shows, where does one begin? 

The end is a good starting point. Know your organizational and personal desired outcomes, and work backwards from there. How are you, your boss, and your company going to measure return on investment (ROI)? What are the key performance indicators (KPI) for the show? If your company doesn’t have a formal strategy, get in the habit of developing your own.

And above all, keep a checklist.

Strike that, keep a few checklists.


While the fine folks of our industry provide a rip-roaring time at these trade shows, they are still, at the core, business events. Planning begins well in advance, and these are just a few of the things you can do to make sure you have crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s to get the most ROI from attending.

Checklist #1

  • Make dinner reservations: Do this a few months in advance. People often make the reservations then fill them as they make appointments
  • Marketing materials: Make sure all branded material is current
  • Business cards: Bring plenty, and consider a non-matte version so people can write on them. If someone doesn’t want to take your business card due to possible germs, have them take a picture of it. Another option is to set up a contact in your phone with your business information only. Then, you can easily text your contact to those who you interact with
  • Identify target companies and/or people and set appointments, if possible
  • Bring tons of pens and a notepad. Always be ready to take notes

Packing and Personal Preparation

While appearance is by no means the most important facet of your performance, it is the factor you have the most control over. Be prepared to look and feel your best to set the foundation for a successful event.

Checklist #2 

  • Get a teeth cleaning and/or white strips. A dazzling smile between masked moments is a positive way to be memorable
  • Make sure clothes are pressed and shoes are polished. Get items updated, tailored, or dry-cleaned, and map out your outfits beforehand. You will thank me for the time it saves
  • Be well-groomed. Get a haircut and make sure your nails are trimmed and clean
  • Pack at least one outfit for exercise—the endorphins will help with the long hours
  • Stock up on toiletries and accoutrements. Bring insoles for shoes and Band-Aids® for blisters
  • Bring nutrition bars, vitamins, and a first-aid kit. Don’t let stomach issues, a headache, or a hangover take you down
  • Check online for other time savers. For example, I can’t live without my garment folder, since I hate ironing. Bose® Noise Cancelling headphones are one of my favorite investments for traveling on planes


You’ve made it to the trade show in one piece! Congratulations. Now, it’s “Game Time.”

Checklist #3

  • Stay hydrated, nourished, and healthy
  • Stay sharp, know when to stop—and when to sleep
  • In maskless moments, remember to smile and be approachable
  • Know your elevator pitch. Have your two/three-minute pitch and questions ready
  • Keep cards on hand
  • If shaking hands, make sure it’s solid: Keep eye contact and actively listen
  • Always have a pen and notepad accessible
  • Hit your targets. Treat everyone courteously, but prioritize those who you are most eager to meet with
  • Keep moving, keep it brief
  • Be available. Don’t hide in your booth, don’t stare at your phone, don’t flock with coworkers, and don’t look bored
  • Keep cards safe and organized, take notes about who you’ve met to follow up
  • Be realistic in per-person objectives and time-frames
  • Set time at the end of each day to review, take notes, and organize and prioritize for the next day

Remember, you are always working at an event. Prepare to be your best self at all times, as chance meetings in elevators or lobbies can be the best. Be realistic with your goals, and make sure to set a follow-up with your contacts.

And, of course, have a great time!

Safe travels!The Snack Endstop

For our fastidious friends in the era of COVID-19

As we all adjust to new COVID-19 precautions, be sure that you are prepared to take all necessary steps to make yourselves and your fellow attendees feel safe.

  • Carry a small hand sanitizer with you—and use it
  • Bring masks
  • Be safe and don’t feel out of place if you’re more cautious than those around you
  • Bump elbows over hugs and handshakes right now
  • Safety first always, including the plane, hotels, airport, Uber/taxis, convention halls, etc.
  • Be aware of hotel cleanliness. TV remotes are the number one germ collectors. Hair dryers and bedspreads are not always super sanitary either

While hotels generally clean between guests, there is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Guests who want to remain vigilant about coming in contact with germs should travel with disinfecting wipes. But the most practical piece of advice is to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth after touching a foreign surface.

Friends, we’re on our way! I’m looking forward to seeing you all ASAP!

On the Road Again

Contributing Author

Founder and President, Joe Produce Search℠. Joe Produce Search (JPS) is the Executive Search division of Joe Produce®. Joe Produce Search is comprised of experienced search consultants and produce professionals. Our placements range from middle management to C-level positions, throughout North America, covering a wide range of produce and produce-related businesses. Joe Pro Resumes is another service of Joe Produce®. Joe Pro Resumes helps you write and refine your resume to help you find the produce industry position of your dreams. We have written hundreds of resumes for many professionals in the produce business in addition to various related sectors.