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Your Guide to Catersource + The Special Event 2024

Catersource + The Special Event kicks off next week!

ATX awaits! In February, thousands of catering and event professionals will head to Austin, TX to attend the next Catersource + The Special Event.There’s no better way to prepare for the busy season than with four days of education, networking, and celebration—and this year’s event is sure to impress!

But attending a conference is more than just a chance to get away from the office and shake off the cobwebs. With the right strategy, you can walk away with valuable insights, new partnerships, and innovative ideas to propel your business’s growth in 2024.

See Clint Elkins LIVE!

You can see Clint Elkins live and in-person at Catersource + The Special Event, February 12–15 in Austin, TX during his session Lower Costs, Higher Profits: Pricing in 2024

Visit for all the details.

If a trip to Austin is in the cards, here are four ways to make the most of your experience and apply your conference takeaways to produce tangible results in your business.

Plan your time onsite

It’s an understatement to say there is a lot to do while attending Catersource + The Special Event. Between educational sessions, networking events, and tradeshow booths, you can easily fill your days with value. But if you don’t go in with a game plan, you might spend more time figuring out what to do than making the most of the conference experience.

Fortunately, the conference website provides attendees with a comprehensive schedule and tradeshow floorplan, so you don’t have to show up unprepared. Identify the speakers, topics, and events you don’t want to miss and block them off in your calendar to avoid double booking. 

Then, you can schedule other activities around those must-see sessions, like walking the tradeshow floor, grabbing coffee with a friend, or squeezing in some emails (although it’s best to keep work to a minimum so you can take advantage of your time onsite!). 

Explore the tradeshow 

While the educational sessions are the star attraction for most, don’t overlook the opportunities you can discover on the tradeshow floor. This is one of the best places to learn about new products, trends, and brands in the industry, which can change how you approach business for the rest of the year.

Use the tradeshow map to review the exhibitor list and take note of the booths you want to visit. Then, set aside an hour or two during the conference to stop by those tables and see what piques your interest. While the educational sessions are meant for taking notes, the tradeshow floor is excellent for networking with fellow industry pros! 

Prioritize networking opportunities 

As you prepare for your trip to Austin, don’t forget to pack your business cards! With thousands of catering and event professionals attending from across the country, Catersource + The Special Event is one of the best networking opportunities every year. So, before you go, consider what you want to get out of your experience. Who do you want to meet? What do you want to accomplish?

For instance, if you’re a destination planner looking to connect with vendors within a new market, you can set a goal to exchange information with at least five people from your desired destination. You can—and should—also review the list of speakers to identify who you’d like to meet, making sure you build in time to attend their session and stay after to introduce yourself.

While there’s plenty of networking to do during the day, you should also plan to attend some of the evening eventsto connect with people outside of the conference. The Opening Night Party SEARCH Foundation Annual Signature Event, the Awards Ceremony, and Closing Night Celebrationare all great opportunities to leave the notebooks behind, get dressed up, and socialize with others. 

Prepare a follow-up strategy 

Returning to the office after a conference can feel overwhelming, to say the least. You’ll probably encounter a jam-packed inbox and a long list of to-dos as you catch up on lost time. (And depending on where you live, maybe even a touch of jetlag!) 

But before getting back to business as usual, set aside time to reflect on your conference experience. What did you learn, and how can you apply it to your business? 

Consider your most valuable takeaways and create a plan to implement them over the next several weeks or months. Otherwise, you might lose track of those notes and let the inspiration fade. As Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Planning while the content is still fresh ensures you capitalize on everything you learned.

This is also the time to reconnect with everyone you met at the conference. Follow new contacts on social media, send follow-up emails to your favorite speakers, and be intentional about nurturing your newly made relationships.

Pro tip: Block off a day or two after the conference before you officially return to the office. Leave your auto-responder up, dedicate extra time to rest, and focus on working through your post-conference to-dos. When you’re back at your desk, you’ll feel confident knowing you’ve maximized your investment.

The conference goes by in a flash, and you don’t want to miss out on anything! Do your homework ahead of time by creating a plan for your time in Austin, but allow it to remain flexible as you explore the opportunities onsite. Having a framework for your time there is helpful, but nothing is set in stone if something exciting arises! 


Clint Elkins

Clint Elkins is the VP Sales for SB Value located in Charlotte, NC. Clint, a former professional race car driver, was one of the top motorsports promoters in the country by the age of 35. Clint used that experience and passion for business to launch his second career in a sales and marketing. Outside of work Clint enjoys spending time on his family farm and coaching his two daughters softball teams. Clint is also an avid cook and self proclaimed badminton superstar.