Conferences and trade shows can be a great way to learn about the latest trends in your industry and make invaluable business contacts. But most business owners will agree that attending an event is even more fun when you can also visit an interesting city or even combine the conference with a vacation.
When my husband and I decide which conferences he will attend for our small business each year, the old real estate adage of “location, location, location” plays a small part in our decision and we try to mix business with pleasure whenever possible. A few years ago, the rest of the family visited the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C, while my husband attended seminars during the day and then joined us for more sightseeing in the evenings. Next week, he is taking a train to Paris for a few days after a trade show in the Netherlands to make the most of his plane trip to Europe.
Here are five upcoming events that take place in cities worth a visit:
Western Food Service and Hospitality Expo
Location: Anaheim, Calif.
Date: August 12-14, 2012
Business: Join over 15,000 hospitality professionals attending the many education sessions on topics ranging from nutrition, marketing, catering and business operations. Be sure to head to the Exhibit Hall to browse over 650 vendor booths and check out The Expo Comida Latina, a Hispanic/Latino food and beverage show.
Pleasure: Located in Orange County, Anaheim and the surrounding area offers many opportunities for you to take some time for yourself and have some fun. Mingle with Mickey at Disneyland, California Adventure and Downtown Disney. Ride the waves and soak up some sun in one of Orange County's many seaside towns, including Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.
Customer Service Experience
Location: New York City
Date: August 13-15, 2012
Business: Experts will speak on the changing landscape of customer service and you will walk away with practical ideas that you can take back to the office. One of the key themes of the event is the different media available for delivering customer service, including mobile devices and social media.
Pleasure: You can head right out the hotel door into the action of Times Square to catch a Broadway show. Delve a little deeper by venturing out to Brooklyn to dine at an up-and-coming restaurant. Other must-do’s include taking a ride to the top of the Empire State Building, catching a live taping of one of your favorite TV shows or visiting the new 9/11 Memorial. Be sure to allow plenty of time for just strolling around the city and taking in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple.
SMB Digital Marketing 2012
Date: Sept. 17-19, 2012
Business: The conference focuses on the trends in digital marketing for small- to medium-sized business along with providing strategies that you can implement in your business. Other topics include how Google impacts small business digital marketing, what works with social media and building a winning sales team.
Pleasure: You will find no shortage of things to do in the Windy City. Ride the ferris wheel at the Navy Pier in the evening or shop along Michigan Avenue. If museums are your style, visit the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry. Sports fans can also catch a Chicago Cubs game at historic Wrigley Field any night the week of the conference or stay a few extra days to watch the Chicago Bears host the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, Sept. 23.
Natural Products Expo East
Date: Sept. 19-22, 2012
Business: Learn about the latest in natural, organic and healthy products for a variety of industries, including yoga studios, pet stores, pharmacies and grocery stores. Several educational sessions, seminars and keynote speakers will be offered to give insight about the direction of the industry. Plenty of networking opportunities will also be available for you to get ideas from others in the organic products industry and make valuable contacts.
Pleasure: The expo is at the Baltimore Convention Center which is a short distance from the Inner Harbor. Spend some time walking along the waterfront, take a boat ride or browse in the shops. Be sure to visit the National Baltimore Aquarium with over 16,000 marine animals. Catch the dolphin show or even schedule a behind-the-scenes tour. Several museums are also a short walk away, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland Science Center and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum. You could also extend the trip by heading to Washington, D.C. (about 45 minutes away) to sightsee at our nation's capital for a few days.
Realtors Conference and Expo
Date: November 9-12, 2012
Business: The conference will include over 100 different educational seminars on a variety of topics, ranging from marketing, legal issues and real estate trends. The Expo is also a great way to learn about the latest in real estate tools and technology by visiting booths from 400 exhibitors. One of the benefits of this event is the many different networking opportunities offered, including working on a Habitat for Humanity house and a Realtor night out at Universal's Islands of Adventure.
Pleasure: November is the perfect time to visit Florida with fewer crowds and cooler temperatures. Orlando is no-brainer destination if you want to combine business and family bonding time. But even if this is an adults-only trip, Orlando has a lot to offer. Head to Discovery Cove at Sea World to swim with the dolphins or enjoy the nightlife at Universal’s City Walk or Downtown Disney. Head to Cocoa Beach (an hour away) after the conference and spend a few days relaxing in the sun.
Tell us about any past conferences where you have turned the business trip into a mini-vacation.
Jennifer Gregory is a journalist with over 17 years professional writing experience. Jennifer blogs via Contently.com.
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