On the QT | The Official Newsletter of GWA August-September 2016 - Page 8
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT
OF YOUR CONFERENCE
BY C.L. FORNARI
Going to a conference is an investment
of time and money,
so you might wonder
if attending the GWA
Conference & Expo will
give you a good return
on that outlay. If you’re
a garden geek, you will,
of course, have a great time. Plant People-R-Us!
But if you’re a garden communicator who wants
to advance your business professionally and
financially, some strategic planning is in order.
Here are some ideas for making any conference
work for furthering your career.
• Start a conference file on your computer or
tablet and note some things you’d like to take
away from this event. Refer back to these
notes just before and during the meeting.
• If you have specific professional goals, look at
the schedule of talks with those in mind. Mark
talks that sound useful and note the person
who is presenting that session. Write that person’s name in your file so that even if you don’t
hear the talk or connect with the presenter at
the meeting, you will have it in your files.
• There are many ways these conferences can
advance your work, but the three prime areas
are networking, horticultural information and
skills building. Plan to attend talks that will
cover all three areas. Networking will serve
you in the future as GWA members assist and
refer work to each other. Increasing our plant
and garden knowledge keeps us fresh and
up to date. And when you become a better
speaker, writer or photographer you’re more
likely to be hired for the jobs you’d like to do.
• Before the conference, contact your regional
representatives to briefly explain your career
goals and ask which GWA members you
might try to connect with. Email those suggested in advance and ask to set up a coffee
or break meeting to pick their brains.
AT THE CONFERENCE
• Add notes to your GWA2016 file throughout
AFTER THE CONFERENCE & EXPO
• Shoot off emails to the companies who
provided product samples and plants at the
trade show. These Allied Trade members will
serve you well in years to come, so develop
relationships with them. Be sure to let them
know if you write, speak or blog about their
products and plants later.
• Send an email or tweet to those you spoke
with just to cement connections. Connect
with them on social media. If they’ve offered
to assist you in the future, don’t hesitate to
contact them with a gentle reminder if they
don’t follow through.
It’s certainly possible to attend a conference
without any advance planning or a specific
agenda, and you’ll undoubtedly have a wonderful time. With some preparation, however, and
a bit of record keeping, you’ll build a scaffold of
support, information and inspiration that will be
both a ladder and support for years to come.
GWA member C.L. Fornari is an author, speaker, radio
host, and professional plant pusher who gardens on
Poison Ivy Acres on Cape Cod. Her website is www.
PHOTO COURTESY KIRK BROWN
(Left to right) Debra Prinzing, Carol Michel, Kevin Gragg, Dee Nash and Ellen Zachos met up at the GWA Annual
Symposium in Pittsburgh in 2014.
the event. Record names of people you
spoke with, plants you brought home and
ideas that were triggered. A conference is
such a jam-packed event that you shouldn’t
leave it to chance that you’ll remember everything.
Build your own tribe: use the dinner sign-up
board to get to know other newbies. Many
GWA members find the people they connect
with in the earliest symposiums become part
of their steadfast network later.
Let serendipity work for you: Sit with a different person on the bus each time. Sit next
to someone new at most meals. Write down
Don’t be afraid to approach the people you
think have achieved what you would like to
attain. GWA members are very generous with
ideas and support. Be memorable. Business
cards get lost, but having a personal conversation or buying someone a drink makes a more
Be open to change and opportunity: Like a
garden, a career as a garden communicator
evolves over time. You may start the conference saying, “I want to grow this,” but end up
thinking, “Perhaps I could grow that too!”