Trade shows-the good ones, that is-change as their industries change. If you're going to spend precious time away from your business talking with exhibitors, and looking at equipment and ingredient applications, you'd better see something new-something that reflects where you think your business is headed.

As a lead sponsor of Worldwide Food Expo, IDFA worked hard in 1997 to create a trade show that moved beyond a domestic dairy show. Yes, we put on a great dairy show in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but that same show would not work today. We've heard from you that dairy processors today need to be aware of innovations in the broader beverage and food businesses, and also need to have an international view on technology and trends.

That brings us to the 2005 Worldwide Food Expo. What's in it for you-a dairy foods manufacturer and marketer of the 21st century? What's emerged over the past few years is a show that is the very best of a dairy show-featuring the best dairy processing technology and formulations-as well as a showcase of the beverage and food innovations that "cross over" to bring you new ideas. You also have the opportunity to network with suppliers and processors worldwide, who work in areas beyond dairy.

Here's an example of how you might make the most of Worldwide Food Expo this month. Start by attending one of the IDFA pre-show workshops. We're covering issues of energy efficiency and cutting environmental waste, and also running our in-depth HACCP training. These workshops take place at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers the day before the show.

On Wednesday morning Expo opens at McCormick Place. Hit the show conference that morning and, at 10 a.m., choose between a "Super Session" on Leadership in Turbulent Times or an overview of Retail Food and Consumer Trends. Or, check out the Manufacturing Solutions workshop from 10-12:30, where you can earn continuing education credits.

Wednesday evening, drop by the dairy-specific Opening Reception at the Sheraton. A highlight of the reception is a Silent Auction with fantastic items you can bid on to raise money for the industry's advocacy work in Washington on Capitol Hill.

Thursday, choose your educational programming in the morning-you can hear more about innovative new products, robotics, branding, or dealing with activists. Then take another spin on the show floor and get the information your team needs for capital improvements and product development.

Continue your visit through Friday and Saturday to get the most from Worldwide Food Expo. Or, if you have trouble getting out of the office all week, don't forget that Saturday features free registration. Come to Chicago for the day and you can still take advantage of some programming and the complete show floor.

Sometime during the show, make a point to hold a meeting with your team. Have a cup of coffee with the rest of your staff to exchange ideas, or hold a more formal meeting-we can help you find a room. Expo presents an opportunity to talk with your team outside the hubbub of the office, which can allow new ideas to rise to the surface.

In short, this month's Expo provides a unique opportunity to take the pulse of your business, as well as the global food and beverage industry. It presents the very best information for your dairy business, all in one place. The show reflects our industry's continual progress, as suppliers exhibit the latest in milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream technology. This includes equipment, ingredients new tests to ensure food safety, and other cutting-edge products and services.

This is your trade show, and it only comes once every two years. So make it a week of ideas and inspiration for your whole team. See you in Chicago!