Whenever I’m asked about the favorite part of any conference, I shamelessly always reply “the food”. Attending a conference is a foodie’s dream! So many great things happen over food during conferences: conference planning, session rehearsals, networking, reconnecting with colleagues, and connecting with new colleagues. Food helps draw even the most opposite of individuals together, and it plays a vital role in the success of a conference. And, no, I’m not talking about the great hotel food at our conferences. I’m talking about the food native to host cities, and the restaurants that feed their citizens. So put down that room service menu, and get ready to indulge in some delicious food. Since it can be difficult to navigate the food scene in any new city, I want to share with you the foodie rules of engagement during a conference.
1. Check out the local restaurants online beforehand. Just like you create a session attendance road map, map out 2-3 restaurants that interest your palate and that you want go to before you leave the city.
2. Try out the native area’s super food. Everyone is known for something they make very well. Whenever I travel, I make it a point to eat something that the place is known for. And let me tell you, there’s nothing better than eating a Philly cheese-steak in Philly, Boston clam chowder in Boston, or Buffalo wings in Buffalo, NY.
3. Avoid chain restaurants. McDonald’s, PF Chang’s, Applebee’s are all great staple restaurants, but they’re everywhere. Go to the local places and you’ll be setting yourself up for success. Local restaurants will give you more flavor, ambiance, food, and even a discount depending on the size of the conference and its business to the establishment.
4. Use even a cup of coffee as a chance to explore. Yes, you can stand at the Starbucks line at the conference and maybe network with a bunch of folks you would have never met otherwise. But just as we are all individuals and different, every cup of coffee is brewed differently. Some of my favorite food spots are coffee shops where I can get coffee from an area roaster. Make sure to check out the hipster looking brew shops and any artisan coffee they have in stock. To accompany a great cup of java, make sure to grab a pastry or two as well.
5. Try a variety of foods. This goes without saying but if you are visiting multiple restaurants while at a conference, try different things on every menu. We get it, you love cheeseburgers, you love French fries and they’re your weakness. But make sure not to just indulge in the same food. If you visit 4-5 restaurants while in town on a conference, don’t eat the same exact thing at every place. Give yourself some variety to be able to truly enjoy the food scene in any given area.
*Bonus: If there are local food carts of food trucks, definitely give them a try, as some of these food carts have the best food in the area and just want to bring their mobile business to the masses.
While the chaos of a conference can be both tiring and overwhelming, it’s important to think about yourself and wellness. Often, we are so busy running around that we settle for a croissant and coffee as dinner. You don’t have to let that be you. Make sure to schedule time to eat, enjoy the food, and enjoy the peace without distractions or networking. Food is part of the fun that comes from attending a national conference, so make it a priority to indulge.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Patrick Love on Strategic Planning in SA