The Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer and Food Festival is approaching (November 16-18) and the College of Business (COB) students at Ferris State University are gearing up for three days of pouring wine. Guests will join us from across the country as we are stationed in over 150 booths on the show floor to pour samples and guide enthusiasts in finding just the right wine to please their palette. With training in wine terminology and service standards, the FSU COB students will be on-site to gain valuable industry experience in hospitality and guest service.
In 2016, I was offered my first opportunity to work IWBFF. I knew I would walk away with increased guest service skills, a better understanding of sales and promotions and a sharper understanding of wine. To my surprise, here are three additional things I took away from this experience as a student pourer.
1. Networking knows no limits
The exciting aspect of networking for me is I never know who I will meet. Exhibitors at this event range from sales representatives to winery owners. Attendees range from business owners to social drinkers. I was paired (pun intended) with a winery from Indiana whose V.P. of Marketing was working as their representative. As a student of public relations and event management, I was thrilled to be teamed up with someone in a related field.
This vendor and I began the day as two strangers and as we worked together to encourage guests to try our wines we built a rapport. By the end of my shift we exchanged business cards with plans to keep in touch. This is the takeaway a student can gain from this experience. Every interaction is an opportunity and the more connections you create, the bigger your network, resulting in direct impact on the job you secure and your future career. So, when presented with an opportunity to network, always take it!
2. Keeping a smile is worth it
I served hundreds of people that night. I interacted with guests, explaining the taste of each wine and conversing with them about their experience. Throughout it all I kept a smile on my face because I wanted to engage guests in conversation and make them feel welcome. As guests started to trickle out and the event came to an end, my vendor approached me and shared how grateful he was for my attitude and persona, even reaching out to my supervisor to share positive comments on my efforts. Though it was a long day on my feet, it was all worth it in the end! For the people I interacted with, for the impression I made, and for the connections I established.
3. How to be a great conversationalist
I’m an individual who can talk. A lot! So, going into this venue, learning about the wine I was pouring and talking with guests about wine was right up my alley. To my surprise, I learned more than I thought I would about conversing with guests.
#1: Responding – Really being responsive to guests, inviting them to try the wines at my individual booth, and actively showing them that I cared about their overall experience brought about my best conversations. From stranger to friend in moments, conversation became easy.
#2: Listening – This was the biggest takeaway I had when holding conversations with guests. Really listen to what they are saying. What are they looking for? What interests them? What flavors do they like and dislike? Listening to each guest allowed me to accommodate what they were searching for or what they wanted to try in regards to wine flavor, body, and taste. This then allowed for the conversation to continue by asking their thoughts on the chosen wine.
Looking back on my experience, I’m very excited as we near IWBFF 2017. Having this opportunity to engage with my peers, build new relationships and connections within the industry, and to give guests an enjoyable experience is something I definitely look forward to.
Will I be there pouring wine? You bet! Will I take advantage of the networking opportunities? Oh yes! Will you see me with a smile on my face and a positive attitude? Absolutely.
So, join me for an unforgettable experience in Grand Rapids, November 16-18 – I’m up for great conversation! How about you?
Brooke Bewak is a senior in the Ferris State University College of Business, majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Event Management. She is Vice President of Campus and Community Outreach for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS). As for her dream career, Brooke says “If I could be the next Ellen DeGeneres, that would be amazing. Otherwise, I’m very optimistic as to where I end up working. So, I would love to do corporate PR work as a PR Manager. Eventually I would like to do PR for an animal shelter.”