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If you’re packing for Vegas on your way to TSE and Catersource, this is the episode for you! So, you know that here in Event Brew we like to tackle the most sensitive topics. But we also love to give you the best tips for professionals in the industry. And, of course, the scoop on the hottest topics going around. And since TSE and Catersource are only a few days away, we thought it was a good idea to fill you in. Essentially, everything you need to know before attending!

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Our lovely Brew Crew is here in full force. And even though only Will Curran and Dustin Westling will be attending this year, Nick Borelli and Thuy Diep are veteran goers. So they all have something to add to the conversation. And, of course, the best info to help you make the most out of the experience. Press play and grab your favorite drink, it’s time for Event Brew!

Click here for the full audio transcription.

tse and catersourceA Little Background

Before we dive straight into TSE and Catersource 2020, let’s take a little trip down memory lane. “So in the late eighties or early nineties, a caterer by the name of Michael Roman transitioned from being a caterer to being the catering guru. And now you see that a lot in different corners of the industry”, Nick explains. “There was someone who was a wedding planner and then turned into a wedding planning trainer. But in other corners of the industry, you see that a lot. There are people that find out that they’re really good at training other people”.

“And then Michael created this roadshow and then eventually an annual conference in the nineties”, he adds. “He was kind of the face of it. They had a magazine for a number of years, a Vegas show, and then after a period of time, he sold the show. Actually prior to that, they purchased another show, which was Event Solutions. And then that was the event track, quote-unquote. So the caterers would do Catersource and the event people did the Event Solution stuff. They co-located and it’s a co-location show”.

“And then UBM bought them eventually. Then after a number of acquisitions with Penton, now Penton media, they now co-locate the special event, which is TSE and Catersource. Similar to what took place before, but in a much larger capacity, and this is the first time ever that these had been co-located”, Nick concludes. Quite the history lesson!

How Nick Crossed Paths With TSE And Catersource

“Catersource had a really vibrant group. We would meet up and it was just everything that you would expect from social media.”, he says. “With that, I got to have a lot of conversations with Michael Roman. And then he had this thing where every Friday, if he had four or five hours where anyone called him at his office, he would just give you advice. It was just an open line, kind of like pro bono consulting. And I was super young in my career. But I didn’t have the gene that makes me worried about asking people for stuff. So I did it pretty much every week, I had at least a 30-minute conversation with him every week about something I was doing and I gained a ton of knowledge”.

“He inevitably gave me free admission to my first Catersource that way”, Nick adds. “Because I was just a sales guy. The organization I was with, they weren’t going to send me. So he got me in for free. And then from that, I started speaking at Catersource, first real national show that I’ve ever spoken at in 2006”.

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As we’ve mentioned, Nick isn’t the only one who’s a veteran goer when it comes to TSE and Catersource. “When I lived in Vegas, there was a way to get into conferences for free”, says Thuy. “You just volunteer at the registration desk and then you’ve got a full access pass to go attend all the educational events. And so that’s what I did. I helped set up the registration area at Catersource in early-mid 2010s”.

“My first TSE was in Phoenix”, Dustin recalls. “And I’ve been to every one since. I used to go to Catersource when I worked in hospitality, and it was always a great time. I spoke at Catersource a couple of years ago, which was really awesome. Speaking at Catersource, it’s just such a different audience and they crave anything creative, any topic that’s on creativity, they really crave that. So it was really cool. It’s yeah, it’s great”.

“Catersource is, I believe, a much bigger conference than TSE. And I love the people at TSE, but that show has really felt like it’s shrunk over the last few years. And the education attendees seem like it’s been less and less. So I think this might be a great opportunity to merge these two audiences together, and yeah we’ll see what the future brings for this partnership”, he adds.

tse and catersourceTSE And Catersource: A Must Go?

Will asks the Brew Crew if this is one of those events they feel like they simply have to attend. “It used to be. I think, for me, it was a show I had to go to. But it got to a point where I have kind of focused on a different corner of the industry, which has never heard of TSE or Catersource”, says Nick. “So in the trade show conference world, when I try to explain this show to them and I’m like, it’s like a supplier show meets social planners meets people in the first 10 years of their career”.

Too Much Of The Same

“And I look at convening leaders as almost the opposite of that, where the content is bonkers”, he adds. “There are these authors and people from all these different industries and over 50% of the attendees have been in the industry for over 20 years. And I look at TSE and I feel like everyone there’s been in the industry for like five or six years. It’s the absolute right show for some people. And when you start feeling the diminished return, which I feel like if you are on a certain career track, you will, then just know that you should pivot”.

“I do agree that these conferences tend to feel the same, and nothing really surprises or delights you”, says Dustin. “And they start to feel like they’re a bit of a template. But I think everybody goes for different reasons. And I will say that I certainly have not focused on the education part of TSE, and I certainly have not focused on the trade show. One of the downfalls for the trade show coming from Canada, is a lot of those businesses don’t do business in Canada, won’t sell to Canada. And that makes it a bit painful because you’ve got to ask first before you meet anybody, before you jump out in the aisle and drag me in, I’m Canadian”.

Making About The Social Aspect

“I think there’s a lot of people that go for the social aspect of it”, adds Dustin. “And that’s perfectly all right too, there is nothing wrong with that, and I will say that my reasons for going over the last few years have been more social. It’s been more just to connect with people that I don’t get to see a lot of. Being in a different country I don’t run into people as much, I don’t do business with a lot of my friends that I’ve made in this industry. So that gives a time and a place for you to come together and catch up with people and talk at the bar”.

“I think what I enjoy about TSE is that it’s also a really social show as well”, says Will. “I mean as someone who has spoken at TSE, I will say that the content doesn’t feel as strong as other places. You’re not going to go for the content. But I remember every single one of those parties or outings or dinners or things like that were always really great. I got to see some of the craziest entertainment. And I think that’s where it really pushed the boundaries on it. So I think definitely if you’re going, if your friends are going and people you know are going, then go for the social aspect of things”.

Choose Your Mindset, And Go With It

“Like every conference you’ve got to set your goals, you’ve got to know what you want to get out of it in mind and work hard to achieve that”, says Dustin. “And it really is a great gathering of amazing people. Some of the brightest and smartest people in our industry are there and roaming around. And take advantage of the opportunity. Check out the app, see who’s going and make sure that you make lots of great connections. When the education isn’t suiting your needs, then wait for the party and show up and you’ll have a really great time. And Vegas always delivers, so”.

“At a point in my career it was absolutely vital to get the information that I did from there”, says Nick. “And I just get a little cynical when I see the same faces over and over again. But I will say that the approachability of everyone there is amazing. You could see a session with somebody speaking and then afterward say ‘hey that was really great. Can I connect with you later while at the show, can we get coffee together?’  The chances of someone there saying yes to that, because everyone’s kind of in the trenches, is really high. So do that”.

The Speakers At TSE And Catersource

“You know I see Sasha Souza, David Merrill, who’s one of the smartest design people I’ve ever met in my life. Kelly Treadway, who’s also one of the smartest marketing minds I’ve met as well. There are some good names on here too. So feel free to look down this list and see if it makes sense for you”, says Will.

“Do you know what’s funny that I do every time I go to one of these things is I go to see Alan Berg speak”, Nick reveals. “And it has nothing to do with what I do at all, I just watch him speak. Because he’s a superior speaker. If you want to get good at speaking and you want a masterclass and you have the ability to deconstruct something you’re seeing happening live, watch Alan speak because he doesn’t do anything that isn’t on purpose”.

“And I think that his content if you are squarely in the world of sales or the social end of things or you’re a supplier, so then you’re going to get some amazing nuggets that are just 100% true”, he adds. “Because there’s kind of good sales and there are bad sales and he speaks good sales. But his speaking is so deliberate and so intentional that for me, I just kind of zone out on what he’s talking about. Because I’ve heard it a million times. And it’s not for me cause I’m not selling weddings. And I just watch his cadence and gestures and things and I’m like, man, I am not a good speaker”.

Special Vegas Advice!

Since TSE and Catersource are happening in Las Vegas, it’s only fitting our hosts offer some advice about the city itself. “Actually this is normal, personal Vegas tip. Don’t go hard the first night thinking you can go to a day club and then into a nightclub and then you can make brunch the next day. You can’t. Don’t go too hard”, says Thuy. “That just ruins your whole entire week. Take it one day at a time, because especially with our event professionals, we like to socialize, we like to party, that’s where the real networking happens. That’s why we even created this podcast. And so know your limits, know your boundaries, know what you need, your objectives going into this. Because at the end of the day, it’s still business”.

“One thing to keep in mind about Vegas is, if you’ve not done a conference in Vegas, it is very big and you do need to make a plan”, adds Dustin. “You’re not gonna run into people as naturally in Vegas, just because of the sheer size of it. So when you want to meet up with somebody, you’ve really got to make a plan. Or you might find yourself just lost in the vastness of it. And it takes you ten times longer than you think it will to get everywhere”.

“And try to do one cool, unique thing”, says Will. “Go see one show or something like that. Even if you’re not going with a group of people, there’s so much good inspiration inside Vegas. I think that you can sometimes miss out on stuff”.


And that’s a wrap on this week’s edition of Event Brew! Are you excited for TSE and Catersource? Hopefully, this episode was helpful in giving you some extra info on what to expect and what to do. So make sure you’re all nice and packed and don’t forget to tune in again next week for a brand new brew!


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TSE And Catersource Speakers

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Nick Borelli

Author Nick Borelli

With 20+ years in the industry, Nick Borelli is passionate about helping event brands communicate stories that result in achieving strategic goals.

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