ELEVATE Attendance Grows By 37% in 2023 - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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ELEVATE Attendance Grows By 37% in 2023

Photo: Jill Odom/NALP

The bar was set high last year at NALP’s inaugural ELEVATE event, but as you know, everything is bigger in Texas. More than 2,100 attendees gathered at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas, Texas, for the second ELEVATE event on Sept. 10-13, 2023, where they experienced education, networking and fun.

At the beginning of the conference, NALP CEO Britt Wood welcomed everyone with the goal for the event to educate, entertain and inspire landscape professionals.

“This show is gaining traction at the rate it is because it’s delivering on the value,” says Brandon Sheppard, NALP president and a Weed Man franchisor in the Mid-Atlantic. “People come here and they learn. They network. They meet other people. They meet up with old friends, and they have a good time. So it really is a marriage of skills and an experience. I think that’s really the formula. We’ve dialed in on a people-centric event.”


This year featured 39 education sessions with four tracks: business excellence, customer experience, operational excellence and team member experience.

“For us, it’s specifically beneficial for our leadership team,” says Darby Gilbert, manager of corporate and talent acquisition for Landscape Workshop, based in Birmingham, Alabama. “It gives them the ability to choose what they want to participate in and to build the skills that they feel like they need as a leader.”

Photo: Jill Odom/NALP

Mark Ables, president and CEO of Ables Landscapes, based in Hollywood, South Carolina, who attended last year’s event, says he brought an additional team member with them this year and they used a divide-and-conquer strategy for the concurrent sessions.

Panelists discussed relevant industry topics such as how to absorb a company into your own and the importance of mental health.  

Presenters from companies like Blades of Green and Mullin covered their best practices regarding retention and recruiting strategies. Angela Hieronimus, director of engagement and success for Blades of Green, shared the number of ways they seek employee feedback, including leadership 360 surveys, which looks at a leader from their peers, subordinates and supervisors’ perspective.

On the ELEVATE Expo floor, there were 171 exhibitors with innovative products attendees could learn about and 18 Campfire Sessions designed for discussions. Landscape professionals delved into topics of how to utilize AI and engage the next generation of workers.


Photo: Jill Odom/NALP

Brent Gardner with Green Environmental Landscape, Inc., based in Las Vegas, Nevada, says his favorite aspect of ELEVATE was making contacts and discovering new information they can take back and use at their company.

ELEVATE provided multiple opportunities for attendees to network and have fun, including at the NALP Networks Social, the Welcome Reception, the PAC reception and more. At the NALP-PAC Reception, more than $60,000 was raised for advocacy efforts.

“It’s a big industry, but it’s a small industry, and everybody’s willing to help each other,” Bill Petry, a sales consultant for Milosi, based in Hendersonville, Tennessee.  “It makes everything different. Even though we all meet here once a year, you can make friends and network for years to come.”

Photo: Jill Odom/NALP

On Tuesday, Sept. 12, attendees could purchase a ticket to the Ultimate Green Battle, which featured a Family Feud-style game interspersed with an auction for tours of various landscape companies across the country. This year’s event raised nearly $180,000. All of the proceeds raised from this event went toward the NALP Foundation.

Afterward, the ELEVATE Bash took place at Gilley’s, a renowned honkeytonk, where attendees could do everything from line dancing and riding a mechanical bull to relaxing in a speakeasy or singing karaoke.

“I just had a blast there,” Ables says. “Just the social part of getting to know people. I had fun watching the karaoke and then went upstairs and got into conversation with like-minded business owners and really just talked for a while. You build relationships.”  


The event also featured inspiring Main Stage presentations. The opening keynote speaker Liz Forkin Bohannon shared about the value of having a beginner’s mindset, which is far more creative. She encouraged attendees to ‘dream small’ and take that first step, instead of being paralyzed by the idea of your dreams not being big enough.

During the leadership panel on Tuesday, Sept. 12, Pam Dooley, owner of Plants Creative Landscape, Phil Key, CEO of Ruppert Landscape, and Tony Massey, president & CEO of Massey Services, Inc. reflected on their leadership styles.

Photo: Jill Odom/NALP

For Massey, he adopts the mindset that they’re doing 98% of things right and focuses on the 2% that can still be improved. Dooley’s advice for others is to know yourself and your non-negotiables. She says you need to know and honor your core values.

The closing keynote speaker Josh Sundquist told his story of losing his leg to cancer and developing his motto of ‘one more thing, one more time’ while training for the Paralympics.

“It’s honestly the best show or conference I’ve been to since I started attending these three years ago,” says Niwar Nasim, president of Nasim Landscape, based in Puyallup, Washington. “So it’s got the most value I think out of any of them I’ve been to and they’ve all been good. It’s just this one is so diverse and there’s just a lot of good influential people.”

Thank you to our partners John Deere, Caterpillar, Envu, STIHL, Greenworks Commercial, Aspire Software, Gravely, Kress, Proven Winners, Kubota, Syngenta, and The LawnBoss.

Next year’s ELEVATE will be held Nov. 3-6, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.