Petfood Forum 101” highlighted how first-time attendees and exhibitors can maximize the value of their experience, along with presenting insights, ideas and opportunities for Forum veterans. Read excerpts from the six-part series below, then check out the full articles to make the most of Petfood Forum.

Petfood Forum 2018 will be held April 23–25, 2018, in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Register here.

Highlights of “Petfood Forum 101” included show overviews as well as deeper dives into particular elements the event, including the tradeshow, educational sessions and, most popularly, networking opportunities. Long-time Petfood Forum attendees and exhibitors provided insights on how to make the most of the show and discussed tips and tricks for ensuring the visit is as productive and enjoyable as possible.

1. What is Petfood Forum all about?

Petfood Forum, organized and put on by Petfood Industry and WATT Global Media, is known as the pet food industry’s global conference and exhibition focused on technologies utilized in the processing of pet foods and pet treats. 

“Networking and getting business done are why most people attend Petfood Forum, according to our attendee/exhibitor surveys,” said Steve Akins, executive vice president, global petfood/events for WATT Global Media. “Education and learning are second, and attendees are also able to view the industry’s only supplier exhibition for pet food and pet treat manufacturers.”

2. How do I plan my Petfood Forum experience?

Petfood Forum is an immersive mix of networking and education, the tradeshow experience and the latest industry trends. If you want to do it all, it will take some planning to ensure you don’t miss out. For pre-planning purposes, the full agenda and speakers list can be found on the events website, with a day-by-day breakout of sessions and a separate tab for the Petfood Innovation Workshop schedule.

3. Making the most of Petfood Forum networking opportunities

Networking is, arguably, the most important aspect of any trade show or conference, and Petfood Forum is no different. Each year, thousands of people come from all over the world to exhibit at or attend Forum, and nearly all of them have one thing in common (besides pet food, of course): they are there to network.

“The atmosphere at Petfood Forum is fairly relaxed, so whether someone is your customer or your competitor, the spirit of everyone meeting on common ground makes Forum unique,” said Marcy Colescott, chief operating officer of Ameri-Pac Inc. and a long-time Forum attendee.

4. How to ace Petfood Forum’s educational sessions

One of Petfood Forum’s primary draws involve its educational sessions, held throughout the tradeshow and conference each year. With multiple “tracks” available, the ability to attend sessions from more than one track, and the trends and data-focused general sessions and panel discussions, any Forum attendee is going to have a wealth of educational options at their fingertips.

Petfood Forum 2018 opening keynote speaker Jack Hanna, host of the Emmy-Award-winning television series “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild,” will kick off the conference portion of Forum with some of his animal friends on April 24. 

“The pet industry is a very important industry for this country,” Hanna said.

5. Year one: Tips for new Petfood Forum exhibitors

Petfood Forum 2018 will boast more than 275 exhibitors on its sold-out show floor — leading industry suppliers and manufacturers all gathering in one place to renew existing customer connections, create new partnerships, do business and socialize.

“Petfood Forum has been a vital tool for us to come to one location and get a chance to see many of our customers without having to travel to have a conversation face-to-face,” said Danny Hudson of Pappas Inc., a manufacturer of food processing equipment that has been exhibiting at Petfood Forum since the late 1990s. “Surprisingly enough, as you get more involved in Petfood Forum you discover that your products or services reach beyond just the attendees to other exhibitors, who often require a product or service you offer.”

“I have to say, I always look forward to the Monday night reception,” said Bob Connolly, vice president of sales and marketing for The Peterson Company. “It’s almost like a family reunion.”

6. Year one: Tips for new Petfood Forum attendees

Petfood Forum 2018 will boast more than 3,000 attendees from 38 countries. Attendees will have plenty of opportunities to network, conduct business and learn from globally recognized industry experts throughout the three-day event.

“First-time attendees are invariably overwhelmed and can feel like they walked into some kind of secret club meeting because everyone seems to know one another,” said Colescott. “You just have to put yourself out there, because overall this is a very friendly industry. Plus, wear good shoes … you are going to stand and walk a lot, so leave the pointy toes and high heels at home (I learned that the hard way)!”

“The best advice I can provide a first-time attendee would be to network,” said Gail Kuhlman, manager of product conformance, research and development at Mars Petcare. “I’d recommend attending as many speaker sessions as possible. Every year, I leave with a better understanding of real-time market trends and current events. Not only do I gain clarity via the speaker sessions, but also when seeing what new raw materials, products and processes are out there; what suppliers are moving into the pet food arena; and what new packaging trends exist. These learnings spark new ideas and new approaches to existing challenges.”

For both Petfood Forum novices and seasoned attendees, the event promises to be an enlightening, enriching, not to mention fun, experience.