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Practical guide for visiting SIAL Paris food fair: 12 Do’s and Don’ts

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SIAL is a the world’s largest food and drink professional fair. It attracts more than 7000 exhibitors from over 100 countries every 2 years in Paris. It takes place at the “Parc des Expositions”, outside of Paris and next to the Roissy Charles de Gaule airport. Making the best of your visit to a fair like this requires careful preparation. Follow our advice (we’ve been attending SIAL for 10 years) to optimize your visit.

1. Do study the list of exhibitors

The last thing you want to do is to navigate randomly among alleys. This is the best strategy to get nothing out of your visit. There is so much to see that your senses will quickly become blurred, your brain overlasted. Just after an hour or two you’ll just walk like a zombie in the alleys of the fair if you don’t have precise goals to reach.
Use the SIAL website to identify new products, exhibitors of interest and make a short list of those to visit.

2. Don’t contact exhibitors too late

Exhibitors will typically arrive in Paris 2-3 days before the show starts and prepare the show weeks (if not months) in advance. Requesting an appointment less than 1 week before the show begins will result at best in a negative answer and at worst in no answer at all. Don’t hesitate to contact them 1 month in advance to introduce yourself and build a first contact. It’s always better to be expected.

3. Don’t take more than 6 appointments per day

From our experience it’s hard to have more than 6 appointments per day, especially if they are in different halls (see next DO). Navigating within one hall (especially hall 5) is sometimes difficult. You will get lost, your attention will get caught by other products, you’ll do unexpected stops at booths you hadn’t planned to visit. For all those reasons planning more than 6 appointments per day may become hard to reach (especially if you don’t want to leave at the last moment ; see DON’T #5)

4. Do group appointments by hall

There are 8 halls at SIAL and the last thing you want to do is to run from one to the other for your appointments. It can take up to 20-30 minutes to reach a distant hall.

5. Don’t leave the show when door closes

Most visitors will return to Paris after their visit and most of them will take the train. The number of trains and the number of seats are limited. If you want to catch a train without having to fight, leave the show between 5 and 5:30 pm. You’ll usually be able to catch the first train that arrives (but getting a sitting place is illusory; you’ll most probably stand)

6. Don’t make your way to the show after 8:30-9am

If your hotel is in Paris, you should take the train to SIAL before 8:30 am. Otherwise you’ll just wait on the platform with hundreds or even thousands of fellow visitors waiting to get into the next crowded train.
It’s better to leave around 8am and wait that doors open in a coffee shop near the SIAL to have a quick breakfast and get ready for the day.

Getting out of the RER train 30 minutes before the SIAL doors open

7. Do dress comfortably

Don’t come overdressed. If you come with public transport, it won’t do any good to your latest Hugo Boss suit.
You are likely to walk many kilometres during the day. Wear sneakers and ensure you can take off a piece of cloth easily if starts being to warm ( temperatures typically rise during the day in the halls because of the crowd and of the spotlights).

My stats on the first day : 20000 steps and 13.5 km walked

8. Don’t use the side alleys to go from one hall to the other

All halls are connected. In theory you could go from hall 1 to 3 for instance by going through hall 2. However one thing you can be sure of is that you will get lost. If you need to go from one hall to the other, our golden hint is to exist the hall first and use the main concourse to get to the other hall.

9. Do book a guided tour

SIAL offers thematic guided tours. They are not free but well worth the money (35€) to get a quick overview of a sector.

10. Don’t buy the official exhibitor’s guide

The guide is outrageously priced (50€) and contains no more than a list of all exhibitors with their contact details. The SIAL app is much better and it’s free.

11. Don’t buy the meal package

SIAL started proposing a package priced at 55€ that includes your lunch. Don’t buy it. There is plenty of food everywhere and making the best of your day requires that you don’t stop for lunch more than 30 minutes.

12. Don’t count on wifi

Free wifi will not work at SIAL. 4G is also very unreliable and there are so many people that at sometimes you won’t be able to even call.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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