One of the many benefits of being members of the Associated Vending Services is the annual AVS conference in sunny Vilamoura, Portugal in September. Except Jane, Excel MD, had never attended – until this year. Jane’s fear of flying had prevented her from getting on a plane for a long time but this year she took the plunge and decided to attend, putting herself through not one, but two British Airways Flying with Confidence courses in an attempt to overcome her fear. It worked; Jane felt confident enough to board the flight to Portugal and while she wouldn’t exactly describe the flight as ‘enjoyable’, after a stiff drink it was at least bearable and she made it to the conference in one piece.
The conference itself took place over three days with the first day consisting of some informal networking over a delicious lunch followed by a pool party at the Puro Beach Pool. Dinner that evening was at the Akavit restaurant at the marina, with transport by the local land train and a special dress code – for the AVS board members at least.
On Friday it was down to business, with Chairman Tim Newberry of Hallmark Vending opening proceedings and inspiring keynote speeches from founder of Coffee Republic, Sahar Hashemi on entrepreneurship and Major Phil Ashby QGM reflecting on his experiences as a UN Peacekeeper. Then it was on to an almost five hour ‘speed dating’ networking session for fellow vending professionals to get to know each other and build relationships, followed by the AVS Awards. The evening closed with a drinks reception at the Tivoli Hotel and dinner in the marina.
Saturday was a more relaxing affair, with an early start for a three-hour boat trip on The Condor sailing boat where everyone was lucky enough to spot dolphins swimming beside the boat. The keen golfers of the group took part in a golf tournament at Vila Sol and the final networking between AVS members and suppliers of the weekend took place.
The conference ran like clockwork thanks to the tireless work of the AVS team HQ members Louise, Harriet and Catriona and it was an extremely worthwhile weekend, with a perfect mix of fun, vending industry discussion and networking – and the sunny location didn’t hurt either. Jane’s already considering booking her flight for the next one…