I first attended the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim in 2011. Since then, I’ve made it back every year except for one. This is one of the largest conventions, so it can be a challenge to see everything. Since having gone for almost a decade, I’ve learned new ways each time to be able to see as much as possible. It takes place this year March 8-11.
Here are my 10 tips for making the most of your time at the Expo:
1. Take a look at the exhibitor list on their website
You don’t going exploring without a compass or a map. Similarly, it’s best to attend Expo West knowing what businesses will be there and where they’ll be located. Their website has a search engine which allows you to find where the exhibitors will be located. The Expo West search engine has many functions. The most basic one is searching by exhibitor name. Having gone many times, I have my favorites which I look for. These include Alexander Family Farm, Pure Indian Foods, Tribali, Cleveland Kitchen, Sioux Honey, Big Picture Foods, To Your Health, Philosopher Foods, Truly Grass Fed, and Tureveda. A more advanced search option on the website allows you to search for key words with exhibitors. By using this tool, I’m able to learn about companies I might not have thought of or even known about. Some of the key words I type in are “grass fed”, “paleo”, “broth, “ferment”, “sauerkraut”, and “kombucha”.
2. Take a look at the NEXTY Awards finalists and winners
Expo West is where the natural food companies introduce new products to their line. To highlight some of the new products, the New Hope Network which puts on the show, holds awards for what they see as the best. You can see who the finalists and the winners are on the website and then search for where the companies’ booths are located.
3. Use the app
The Natural Products Expo has an app which can be downloaded on your smart phone or tablet. Along with the website, the app also allows you to search for exhibitors, which can be added to your favorites on there. Other perks of the app are a map of all the exhibit halls and being able to pull up your badge registration on it. As Expo West is about sustainability, what’s better than being able to save on paper and not having to print out your registration confirmation?
4. If you need help with anything at the Expo, use SPARKY the EventBot
The app is one way to find get information on Expo West. Another option is using SPARKY the EventBot. You can access SPARKY by texting “Expo West” to 25525. The EventBot can answer all types of questions regarding the exhibitors, the schedule of the entire week, and even directions on how to get to the Anaheim Convention Center.
5. Don’t skip the exhibitors off the main floor
While the most well known names in organics will be found by and large on the main floor, the exhibitors on other floors in the Anaheim Convention Center as well as in the nearby hotels are also worth checking out. The other floors are great for discovering new products and being the first to know what they’re all about.
6. Attend the day before the main floor opens
The main floor opens on Thursday, but the North Hall of the Convention Center and the Anaheim Hilton are filled with over 1,000 exhibitors known as the Hot Products. I’ve spend over a day visiting these businesses alone. Attending a day early makes it easier to be able to see both the newer smaller companies and the major organic and natural food brands.
7. Get to know the other people talking to the exhibitors
If you’re an attendee as opposed to an exhibitor, you’re obviously there to check out the booths. But the other people attending can also be a major resource into the natural foods network too. I’m always excited meet other bloggers and social media influencers to learn some new tricks of the trade. Additionally, some business don’t feel ready to exhibit yet, but like to walk the floor to get connections. So people behind the exhibitor tables aren’t the only way to learn about exciting new products out there.
8. It’s an exhibitor heavy conference, but hearing the speakers can be beneficial too
With products and expo in its title, it should be clear it’s more about exhibitors than speakers. And even spending every day and minute of the conference on the floor, it’s likely impossible to see every exhibitor there. Still there are many great panels there with valuable knowledge of the sustainable and natural worlds. So if any of the topics pique your interest, it’s worth taking a break from the floor. While some sessions require separate registration, many such as the keynotes every days are included in the general badge registration.
9. Go for seconds with your favorites
I like to hit as many exhibitors as possible, but I also want to make return visits to my favorites to learn more about them and maintain connections. Let the companies know you appreciate them by popping your head in again.
10. There are benefits of attending the last day
Many people I know tend to skip the last day, feeling they’ve covered enough in the other days. This is the day I tend to spend going for seconds with my favorites. It’s also the best day to get samples from the exhibitors as a lot of them don’t plan to take everything back with them. And you never know what you might have missed the other days. It never hurts to take one last walk around all the halls.
I love the wealth of connections I make at the Expo West every year and the great people I get to meet. If you’re attending this year, be sure to look for me.