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Create the ultimate GIE+EXPO experience

September 18, 2019 -  By
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What is the ultimate GIE+EXPO experience? Hold on, we’ll get to that in a minute. First, it’s important to understand that planning is a prerequisite. Showing up to the largest event in our industry without a solid plan isn’t going to get ‘er done. Now is the time to map out your ultimate GIE+EXPO experience. If you’re attending with someone else or a group from your company, it’s even more critical to plan ahead.

Let’s start with networking. Every survey I’ve ever seen indicates that networking is the most valuable aspect of an industry event. I couldn’t agree more. However, effective networking takes planning and effort. Because of the abundance of networking events — some simultaneous and in different locations — it’s impossible to attend them all. Decide ahead of time which ones are essential and which are not. Be sure to save enough time and energy for the essential networking events.

If you want to take your networking to the next level, do some supplemental research on best practices for where to stand in a room, where to place your name tag and even in which hand to hold your drink. Challenge yourself to become the ultimate networker.

Expanding your circle doesn’t necessarily have to happen at a scheduled event. Many professional relationships begin in a coffee line or in the elevator. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Wear your name badge at all times, even when out to dinner or walking around town. Be sure to bring lots of business cards and have them with you. They won’t do you any good in your hotel room. Place some extras in your name badge holder.

The next aspect to consider is education. With several educational tracks running simultaneously, this is an area where you must have a plan. Most attendees I see do have a plan for which educational sessions to attend, but where they’re lacking is with their follow-up. What happens after the educational session ends? What are the great ideas to bring home? Where are they captured?

Each educational session is an opportunity to bring back one or more new ideas. Taking time to identify these ideas and document them will elevate your educational experience from average to ultimate. Leaders sending people to GIE+EXPO should expect a full report upon their return. Why wouldn’t you?

GIE+EXPO is not all work and no play. It also offers an excellent opportunity to unwind. In fact, the ultimate GIE+EXPO experience includes having fun. When was the last time you were ordered to go have some fun or gave yourself permission to do so?

We work way too hard in this industry to not take time to blow off some steam every so often. Louisville, Ky., has an array of options. What do you like to do to unwind? Now is your chance. That’s an order. Give yourself permission.

Networking, education and unwinding are all good, but they will catch up to you. Even high-energy extroverts need to recharge. It’s important to plan some downtime to recharge your batteries so you don’t come home exhausted and unprepared to face what lies ahead.

Some people need a vacation after their vacation because their “vacation” drained them. GIE+EXPO isn’t a vacation by any means, but the same rule applies here. Take off the cape. You’re not a superhero. Don’t try to do everything. Less is more.

Finally, what if your GIE+EXPO registration were free? If that sounds appealing, you’ll want to check out our drawing for a full registration to the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Landscapes conference and educational track, which includes full GIE+EXPO registration — a $599 value. Details on how to participate in this drawing will be announced on GrowTheBench social media sites and in our e-newsletter. If you have not yet subscribed to our e-newsletter, please visit to do so.

The ultimate GIE+EXPO experience is a well-devised blend of networking, education, unwinding and recharging. Will you have an optimal experience without advance planning? Not a chance. So, now is the time to get your plan together. See you in October!

Phil Harwood

About the Author:

Harwood is a Managing Partner with GrowTheBench and Pro-Motion Consulting. Reach him at He is a Landscape Industry Certified Manager, NALP Trailblazer, NALP Consultant, and Certified Snow Professional. Harwood holds a BA in Marketing and Executive MBA with Honors from Michigan State University.

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