I attended my first national conference and trade show in Indianapolis in 1984. My reason for going was simple. I wanted to get into the lawn care business and needed to find out as much as I could about the industry before taking that big first step. What I learned at the event helped me to make the decision not only to enter the industry, but also to join PLCAA (the Professional Lawn Care Association of America – a PLANET legacy association), which I did in 1985. I’ve been to most every conference and trade show since then.
As you may know, ALCA (the Associated Landscape Contractors of America – the other PLANET legacy association), in partnership with PGMS (the Professional Grounds Management Society), had a show of its own in the mid-1980s. In 1990, PLCAA and ALCA merged their two shows to form the Green Industry Expo (GIE). In 2007, PLANET joined with OPEI (The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute) to form the GIE+EXPO. Last year, HNA (Hardscape North America) joined in to bring another dimension to an already dynamic event, and HNA will be there again this year.
Throughout its long, storied history, the GIE+EXPO (and its legacy shows) has put a premium on presenting seminars and other educational venues to ensure attendees are up to speed with ongoing innovation. The vehicle for presenting this information is the Green Industry Conference (GIC), which this year has no less than 11 educational tracks.
GIC Subcommittee Chair Phil Fogarty emphasizes that this year’s seminar lineup will piggy back on last year’s success, meaning it will focus on what industry professionals need to know right now. “Establishing long-term goals and developing strategic plans are important,” he points out. “But, what all companies, large and small, emerging and long-standing, need are ideas and road maps on ways to take advantage of the recovery. The industry has been working to survive the economic downturn for the last few years,” Phil continues, “and now it’s time to capitalize on opportunities.”
Personally, I don’t know of a better place than GIC or a better time than now to attend educational seminars and workshops, network with peers, talk with suppliers, and test drive equipment and products. The educational value of the seminars alone is absolutely priceless, and where else can industry professionals attend an educational and networking session such as Breakfast With Champions or actually try out several different brands of equipment and products without having to drive to several different dealer and supplier locations? The virtual facility tours are back again this year, as well.
Getting the most out of attending the GIC and GIE+EXPO requires a little up-front planning. Consider visiting the PLANET Web site a few weeks before the event to get the latest information on seminars and trade show exhibitors. Develop a strategy for attending seminars and walking the trade show. Create a schedule, assign tasks, and be prepared to debrief staff members at the end of the day. My staff always profited from sharing notes over dinner or spending 45 minutes to an hour together in the hotel room. It works, and this time is valuable.
I confess to being an avid note taker. I take notes in seminars, jot down ideas when I talk with peers, and do a little of each when I walk the trade show floor and meet with suppliers. I’m likely to fill in the gaps later in the day, too, with highlights.
This event is absolutely filled with important information nuggets, and my goal always has been to come home with a few that will help my company move forward and, yes, stay ahead of competitors. The stakes are even higher this year as the industry continues to recover. Opportunities, scarce in recent years, are beginning to appear. Learning where they are and how to capitalize on them are two very good reasons to be in Louisville, October 26–29.
As this year’s GIC catchphrase suggests, “It’s time to grow,” and the best way to ensure that this happens is to make plans now to go. Lock in hotel and travel arrangements, and take advantage of early-bird registration discounts. Visit PLANET’s Web site, LandcareNetwork.org for details about seminars, entertainment, rooms, early registration, and more.
See you there, note pads and all.