FCSI The Americas 2017 Symposium: get with the program

Held on the eve of The NAFEM Show, The FCSI The Americas Symposium 2017 promises a hugely rewarding educational program and plenty of fun too, reports Howard Riell

The FCSI The Americas Symposium on 7-8 February 2017, in Orlando, Florida at NAFEM Show 2017, promises to combine technical knowledge and networking opportunities with good old- fashioned fun.

Events hosted by The Americas Division are always education-rich “and a lot of fun,” notes Penny Price, director of member services for FCSI The Americas Division in Springfield, Illinois. “Attendees can look forward to learning about new ideas that will challenge the way they currently conduct their business and engage with clients. There truly is something for everyone within the education program and we will never disappoint with the networking opportunities.”

According to Price, more than 130 people have registered for the Symposium, with over half of them being consultants. “I anticipate that we will exceed the number of attendees that we had at the 2015 Symposium,” she says.

“For our 2017 Symposium, we decided to focus on the business side of consulting a bit more,” reflects Wade Koehler CAE, executive director of FCSI The Americas. “We have tried to identify speakers and sessions that will help the consultant improve their business acumen versus the foodservice aspect,” he says.

When it comes to proposals, negotiations, forms and other related areas, Koehler continues, “we all get into a rut, so the Committee wanted to showcase new ways and ideas to help break consultants’ current bad habits.”

Koehler believes the program will be different to that of the FCSI TAD 2016 Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, “since we are focusing on the business side at this event. The great part of our Symposium taking place prior to NAFEM is that we get a great turnout of consultants.”

The Symposium, notes Eric Norman FCSI, vice president of MVP Services Group, Inc. in Asbury, Iowa, “is really covering the spectrum when it comes to the educational content this year,” he says. “We have sessions ranging from ‘Getting higher fees in an ultra- competitive market’ to ‘Away with the tray – a makeover for senior living foodservice’. There are plenty of breakouts to choose from that cater to both Professional members and Allied members. The ‘Breaking Bad Communication Habits’ session and the session on app learning will be great for any member,” he says.

Good communication

Kimberly Kissel, director of education for FCSI The Americas Division, admits she “could go on and on about the educational offerings presented at the Symposium. We are beyond thrilled to have one of our keynotes, Chris Voss, as part of Symposium. He will divulge FBI negotiation secrets while relating these experiences to those wishing to break bad communication habits.”

Voss, a former international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI, will describe why good communication skills are critical in business and life, as he shares counter-intuitive communication skills for success.

One unique session at the Symposium will address how to approach American Institute of Architects (AIA) contracts, including insurance levels, the opportunity to change AIA contract language, and proposals versus AIA contracts.

Another, which Kissel says, “speaks to the very heart of our membership” pertains to the proposal process. This interactive workshop will cover topics such as successful teaming strategies, organizing for success, making the go/no go decision and more.

Among other opportunities, the Symposium session on ‘How to Master the NAFEM Show Floor’, with veteran show goers Eric Norman FCSI, Brent Hall FCSI and Jack Scott, senior vice president of sales & marketing at Alto-Shaam, will be extremely beneficial for young professionals and first-time attendees of the NAFEM Show. Says Kissel, “It will demonstrate to them how best to optimize their time and energy over the hectic week.”

Global multi-generational marketing expert Kenneth W. Gronbach will close the Symposium with a keynote that addresses ‘Charting the course through demographic change’, Kissel says. “He will explore the common sense but very counter-intuitive and fascinating realm of demography. Ken is a marketer who has immersed himself in 19 years of proprietary demographic research. His understanding of worldwide demographics, fertility, migration, aging, immigration and dying have enabled him to forecast societal, political, economic, cultural and commercial phenomena with uncanny accuracy,” she says.

Dynamic shifts

Douglas Huber FCSI, principal of Foodservice Consultants Studio, Inc. in Montpelier, Virginia, has been a member of the Council for Professional Standards for The Americas (CPSTA) team for over eight years. “During that time I have witnessed a dynamic shift in FCSI The Americas,” says Huber.

“The educational quality of programs at every successive event has continued to improve dramatically. I believe that the 2017 FCSI Symposium is primed to continue that trend,” he says.

CPSTA sets the standards for professional membership, administers the Education Provider Program, and ensures the quality of continuing education programs for The Americas Division within FCSI.

Any craftsman, Huber points out, knows the importance of taking care of his tools. “Good chefs keep sharp knives. Good consultants continually hone their skills and understand the importance of maximizing experiences in the industry,” he says. The greater the range of experience for the consultant, he continues, the better problem-solver they become.

“Consultants who are actively engaged in FCSI are given access to great educational opportunities like the FCSI Symposium,” notes Huber. “The Symposium is an opportunity to obtain immediate and actionable ideas for each consultant’s practice. I cannot think of a more effective way to spend a single day honing one’s skills,” he says.

The time for change, Huber insists, is now. He calls the FCSI TAD Symposium “the perfect opportunity for seasoned consultants to sharpen their skills. However, I believe that students will really benefit from the program because the topics are applicable to every aspect of our lives.”

Students, he adds, will be exposed to tools to improve the way they study, approach their career searches and interact with peers. “And the impact of implementing the ideas from the Symposium will be immediate,” he says.

FCSI professional consultant members will earn five Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for attending the FCSI TAD 2017 Symposium, and three units for attending the NAFEM Show 2017 itself.

Focusing on fun

Wade Koehler says he likes Orlando because, among other reasons, “it’s warm in February, giving a winter break for a large portion of our membership. Second, there is so much to do and see in the large tourist city. Having a venue like SeaWorld for our opening party gives us the chance to have some fun along with great networking.”Creating a fun event, Price adds, “is no challenge at all. We love throwing a party, and like to think we typically have no problem providing fun experiences for our attendees.” The Symposium’s opening party at SeaWorld will feature unlimited rides on their newest rollercoaster, Mako, Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster.

“Even the non-thrill seekers in the group will enjoy the gorgeous Florida weather, delicious food and drink, music, and an evening of catching up with industry friends,” she says.

The education piece is “a little more challenging because we always have so many great topics to choose from,” Price continues. She and her colleagues survey the membership and determine what topics they would like to see addressed; from that, they develop a theme and build the program. “The Planning Committee plays a huge role in this effort as they determine which topics are most relevant to our members and help identify potential speakers. I think we have put together a very compelling program that addresses some of the habits that we all develop that may be hindering our success.”

Huber agrees Orlando is a good city to host the event because it offers something for everyone. “I lived in Orlando from 1994 to 2003. This is a young city. Orlando has come a long way since the opening of the first Disney park. There is a wide variety of ways to play in Orlando. There is golf, lots of music venues, dancing, and of course the world- renowned theme parks,” he says.

“People from all over the world vacation in Orlando so visitors get a taste of world cultures not normally available to us in the US. I always look forward to returning to Orlando.”

Networking opportunities are always a top priority for FCSI Allied and Professional members alike, according to Christine Guyott FCSI of Rippe Associates in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “There are breaks to say a quick hello and evening activities that give everyone a chance to mingle longer in a non-stressful, low-pressure situation. There is very rarely anyone trying to ‘hard sell’ you at the event; it is about hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones, which we all appreciate. Wade and his team always plan wonderful events to keep us engaged and entertained.”

Guyott admits she is looking forward to catching up at the conference. “It is always great to network and visit with my Allied and consultant friends. We don’t get to see each other as much as we would all like,” she says.

Howard Riell

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