ARLINGTON, Va. — Food Marketing Institute is hoping to discover just how much talent this industry has.
Not the kind of talent required to keep shelves stocked with fresh produce — but the kind that can stand the heat of the spotlight and wow an audience.
Seeking an entertainment concept to replace the awards banquet it canceled two years ago, FMI is scheduled to unveil today its plans to stage a competition called “FMI Idol” at next year's conference in Las Vegas. The contest, borrowing on the popularity of the “American Idol” TV series, will call on retail attendees to sing, dance or otherwise showcase their abilities as performers.
“There is a lot of sameness in trade shows, and we are trying to do something a little different,” said Brian Tully, senior vice president, FMI. “Hopefully, this has great appeal to the members of this industry.
“We need people to boldly step forward and say, ‘Gee, I haven't played the piano or sung in years, but I can still do it,’” he said. “We are going for individual performances — people who can juggle, sing, read poetry beautifully, play musical instruments.”
Contestants will be asked to submit videos of themselves performing to www.fmishow.org, where entries will be vetted by FMI and then posted for online viewers to cast their votes. Finalists will perform live at the FMI Show. Rather than face a trio of quirky judges, performers will instead be voted on by the audience in attendance at the FMI After Hours dinner on Monday, May 5, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, where the FMI Show will be staged. The winner will receive $2,500.
Tully said FMI hopes the event will generate some interest in the FMI Show as well as create a venue for interaction among attendees.
“It's an opportunity to mingle with trading partners and peers,” he said.
Plus, he added, a performance event seemed appropriate, given Las Vegas' status as an entertainment mecca. As previously reported, 2008 will mark the exit of the FMI Show from its longtime venue at Chicago's McCormick Place and the start of an alternate-year rotation between an exhibit conference and a stand-alone educational event.
Unlike the banquets of FMI Shows past, which featured big-name performers and a formal, sit-down dinner, the After Hours event will be a more casual affair, with a buffet-style dinner and no assigned seating.
“Over time, the formality of [the banquet] was not what the business really wanted, so this is our chance to come back with something entirely different,” Tully explained.
The contest is only open to retail professionals registered to attend the 2008 FMI Show and its Marketechnics technology exhibition, and is only open to individual performances, rather than group acts. For more details, visit www.fmishow.org.