I attend my fair share of festivals – as a Williamsburg local, I’m at Smorgasburg’s street food extravaganza on a weekly basis – but there’s a completely different experience that comes with attending a festival associated with your work industry. This past weekend, the cups team attended the New York Coffee Festival on Industry Day, and it was my first time representing this company at an event. I’ve also never attended a coffee industry event unless you count coffee cupping at a local coffee shop. Coffee Fest New York is coming up in March of 2023, so I’m here to reflect on my experience as a festival first-timer and give my future self some ideas about how to approach our next festival.
When we entered the venue, we immediately bumped into multiple coffee shops, brands, and suppliers that work with us. Colson Patisserie, a loyal customer for coffee shop supplies and on-demand staffing, was the first booth we saw when we walked in. We circled back to their booth to meet the owner behind the delicious pastries, but we had never met her in person before and couldn’t find her in the sea of people. This leads me to tip #1:
Have your company’s crew wear matching merch, but not just with your company logo on it – make it fun! It’s a great way to break the ice and get the conversation going, and also makes it easy for people to recognize you.
Bonus points if you create magnets, stickers, or other handouts with the same design. It’s easy marketing to hand someone a little gift after they compliment your merch, and you know they’ll want to use the handout since they like the design.
Wearing our company sweatshirts designed for this event led us to meet coffee shop owners, wholesale suppliers, and on-demand baristas in our staffing network that we didn’t even know were attending the event. A few weeks before the coffee fest, members of our team reached out to people and companies that we wanted to meet in person, but we ran into coffee supply brands that we were eager to chat with that were missed in our outreach. We had the opportunity to chat with Raaka, which is a popular vegan chocolate brand that we sell on our platform. I sampled their seasonal Pumpkin Swirl chocolate and newly added Cocao Magic hot chocolate blend (two thumbs up for both products), but wish I was able to have a more in-depth conversation about our partnership. After reflecting, I came to tip #2:
Check out the lineup of exhibitors before attending the event. We reached out to some smaller brands in the New York area that sell products on our dashboard but could have benefited by prepping conversation points for larger suppliers we partner with, such as Matchaful, Minor Figures, Oatly, and Pacific Foods.
Better yet, research the key faces of the clients and brands you’re interested in meeting. It can be hard to read nametags in a crowded, quick-paced space, but you can easily find a familiar face if you know who you’re looking for by reading into a company’s website, LinkedIn, or social media.
After all the talking and marketing, I got a bit worn out – even after 3 espresso shots and multiple coffee samples. Throughout the day, there were plenty of opportunities to take a breather from the coffee chats and let other people do the talking for a bit. The festival had live music, latte art demonstrations, and even barista competitions that one of our on-demand baristas participated in (go, Noelle!). We also watched the CEO Forum – Recruitment, Retainment, and Upskilling to learn more about the staffing pain points in the coffee industry that we work to solve with our barista staffing service. Looking back, I wish I watched more events, so here’s tip #3:
Review the events schedule before going to your next coffee fest so include breaks throughout your day. Pick out what makes sense for you to watch, and make a plan to divide and conquer speakers and demonstrations with your coworkers if they overlap.
Not only were these events an educational opportunity, but they were exciting to watch, specifically the barista throwdowns. I appreciated the downtime to catch my breath and drink water after chugging the free coffee samples.
Overall, I had a blast with my team at the New York Coffee Festival – we’re eager to attend the upcoming event in March and hope to see you there!