With just a few days until the 2014 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show in Chicago, it’s time to pack your bags and research the must-visit demos, booths, education sessions, speakers and more. The Foodservice industry’s premier four-day event caters to culinary professionals, dealers and distributors, retailers, and the operators behind longstanding and up-and-coming restaurants alike – which can make it an overwhelming experience, especially for first-time attendees. Whether at NRA or another tradeshow, here is a taste of advice to make the most of your time.

•    Trade shows attract the best thought leaders in the industry and what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear firsthand from the best in the business. At the NRA Show, don’t miss the State of the Industry address from NRA CEO Dawn Sweeney. She’ll discuss how entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility and social media play a role in the “Future of the American Dream.”

•    Networking is central to the trade show experience and developing relationships with your peers can be a benefit down the line – from troubleshooting to potential partnerships. Events are a great opportunity to meet new people and catch up with old acquaintances. A top NRA networking pick is “Destination: Celebration,” the annual gala featuring trendy cocktails and food, and live entertainment. The Operator Innovations Awards will be announced at this marquee event, recognizing the trailblazers of Health & Nutrition, Marketing, Menu Development, Sustainability and Technology.

•    Making a game plan ahead of time to outline your priority speakers, booths and activities can help you stay organized at a convention. If you’re seeking to learn about the latest foodservice solutions at the NRA Show, ensure that the Kitchen Innovations Pavilion is on your list. This hub showcases the future of back-of-the-house, with award-winning products like a wireless food freshness monitoring system.

•    Tradeshows can be mentally taxing and one way to keep things fresh is to include fun, entertaining activities in your day. At the NRA Show, a huge draw is the World Culinary Showcase, where the biggest names among celebrity chefs take the stage to entertain and share their cooking expertise. This year’s talent includes big names like Robert Irvine and Maneet Chauhan.

•    Bustling trade shows offer a unique opportunity to try new things and inspire your business. An added benefit is the wealth of contests, prizes and samples available on the Show Floor. Stop by Booth 651 to explore Tork’s full range of restaurant hygiene solutions and enter for a chance to win a trip to wine country.