“Working” a Trade Show

Jacqueline at Long Beach 1705848_preview.jpg

By Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule

Spanish Version Available

During a recent meeting of the GWA Association Outreach Committee,* Maria Zampini said that she has never seen someone “work” a trade show floor as diligently as I do.  Yes, I do work the floor, and you should too if you are serious about being a garden communicator.  Here are five guidelines to using a green industry show for your career.

Why go?

There are many reasons to go to a green industry show, and no one correct answer.  Do you want to grab the goodies?  Visit with friends?  Discover ideas or people to interview for articles/programs?  Check out the latest and greatest plants and goods?  Make new contacts?  See and be seen?  Network?  All the above?

Before you go, decide why you are attending.  If networking is top priority for you, then be sure you are prepared to network with ample business cards, plus some way to record/remember the links in the network you are working on.  Need new article/program ideas?  Set a goal.  Five new story ideas.


This is not (just) about the money.  How many tasks did you have to get done ahead of time so you can walk away from your life for a day or five?  How much time, and stress, and details do you have to tend to?  Snailmail.  Email.  Family care.  Pet sitter.  Here in the Southwest – garden caretaker.  How many favors do you have to call in (use up) to keep your life running smoothly while you are away from it?  How much stress does absenting yourself put on your family?

It doesn’t hurt to make a page listing the pros & cons.  Especially consider what you might get out of attending.  What will be your ROI (Return on Investment)?

Your Persona

I love the fact that my job often lets me wear pajamas all day long.  But going to a trade show – even if you know everyone there – it’s still a public venue, and you are there to represent your business.  Some people do this flamboyantly, some people are quieter about it.

If you haven’t yet, develop a personal logo. If you have a personal logo, be sure you use it, and plan on leaving people with a positive impression of who you are and what you do.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Trade show people are there to sell you something.  It costs them money to be there and they do want to get a bang for their bucks.  That’s the company, then there are the workers themselves (not always the same thing).  The people in the booth may do nothing but travel the country putting up their booth, not to mention putting up with airplanes, lost luggage, hotel food, and rude people.

Be ready to be nice to people.  Be nice to (take care of) yourself too.


Don’t drop the ball!  How many of us go home and drop the overflowing bag o’ info so we can get back to all the unfinished tasks?  Don’t do that!

From day one – as you start to think about attending the event – include the aftermath as part of your “out of office” time.  Plan to spend a day (or three) intercollating the newly acquired information, filing business cards, adding contacts into your information network or files and contact lists.  Plan on taking the time to send thank you or “nice to meet you” notes.

Going to a garden show or allied trade show is a great opportunity to spread the word about who you are – a garden communicator.  Communicate!  And don’t forget to GWA for an “Ask me about GWA” ribbon to put on your badge.

* The Association Outreach Committee is responsible for expanding GWA’s awareness of other green industry associations nationally and internationally and to have those same organizations become more aware of GWA, its members, and their services.

Meet the Author


Jacqueline A. Soule is a long-time Southwest gardener, award-winning garden writer, and author of eleven books.  In addition to freelance work, she has been a columnist for many years with weekly and monthly columns in a number of national, regional and local publications, now including online blogs.  Jacqueline is a popular regional speaker averaging seven presentations a month in the land of El Sol.








Digging Into Instagram


By John Markowski

Warning: What you are about to read may be rendered useless in the near future. Such is the world of social media and its constant evolving.

In the interest of time and real estate on the page, I’ll assume you know the basics of Instagram. If not, I would suggest a quick Google search or maybe play around on the app a bit.

I’ll wait. No rush.

Instagram is the social media platform for plant lovers. Instagram is dominated by pretty. Gardens are pretty. It’s a match made in heaven.

When I post a photo to Insta (what the cool kids call it) I immediately surprise even myself and think, “Is that really my garden? Wow, I’m good.” It’s hard to not make a garden or plant look fantastic on this platform.

There was a time not too long ago where I would take a pic with my phone, apply a cool filter and share it to Instagram fully expecting oodles of likes and a bunch of “gorgeous shot” comments. It was easy. It was uplifting.

But then I wanted more.

I wanted to push people to my blog. I wanted to push people to Amazon to buy my book. Like so many others, I’d add a caption to a photo that encouraged readers to “check out the URL in my profile” where I’d store my blog or book link (Instagram doesn’t allow you to post a link along with a photo).

I figured I’d lure them in with a flower pic, pique their curiosity with a fun fact and then they’d have no choice but to head to my profile where they’d eventually find my blog and my book. I’d have a fan for life.


There were very few clicks and very few books sold.

On top of that, Instagram has changed their timeline algorithm. Photos are no longer displayed chronologically. Insta determines what they think users want to see based on advanced metrics. As a result, we’re all getting fewer views, likes and comments.

But fear not, here are some other ways to make use of the platform:

  • Hashtags still work. A mix of common and not so common hashtags work well. When you use a hashtag, the app will tell you how many times the hashtag has been used by other users. I’ll use #garden and I’ll use #perennialsbook.
  • Giveaways. I gave away plants featured in my book along with a copy of the book. The winners displayed them on their own IG photos upping the exposure.
  • “Instagram Stories” all day. I use this feature to share the “behind the scenes” of projects. This is where you allow users to get to know you on a more personal level. Yes, they disappear after 24 hours, but they are an amazing creative outlet.
  • Be fearless and go live. A tour of your garden live with some commentary will kill. When going live, your followers are notified directly.
  • Play with days and times. Experiment posting on different days and times and study the results.

Meet the Author


John Markowski is the author of the “Obsessive Neurotic Gardener” blog, which includes 1500+ posts since its inception in 2010. He published his first book Perennials Through the Seasons in April 2017.  His second book, a garden memoir, will be coming out this spring.  John’s gardens have been featured a number of times on the Fine Gardening website.

John is also currently a featured writer on Medium where he writes about such non-gardening topics as family, parenting, aging, and baseball. Many of his articles have been featured on other sites including Scary Mommy, Fatherly, The Good Men Project, and Huffington Post.

John currently lives in rural Hunterdon County, New Jersey, with his college sweetheart wife, two children, and their irreplaceable rescue mutt, Mia.