GWA Partners with IGC for #GWA2018

Photo Credit Choose Chicago

By Beth Botts

The 70th annual GWA Conference & Expo in Chicago this summer will include something new—a partnership with another trade show that offers news, sources and exposure.

#GWA2018 will be sharing exposition and education space at Navy Pier, August 13-16 with the IGC Show, the largest U.S. trade show for independent garden centers. It’s the first time the GWA annual conference has partnered with another organization.

“About 7,000 people attend the IGC Show to see nearly 600 exhibitors, and order the pots, bplants, potting mix, seeds and other products our readers will find when they start shopping in spring,” according to Jeff Morey, editor of IGC Magazine and the show’s co-producer.

Since garden centers’ customers are our readers, we have an audience in common. Attending the IGC Show is an opportunity to reinforce our expertise by tapping into trends and products that will be on our readers’ minds this year.

It also offers us chances to tap into a potential market for writers, photographers, bloggers and other communicators with horticultural expertise. Many retailers have websites, catalogs, social media accounts and other communications outlets that could use professional advice and content aimed at gardeners. Knowing that garden communicators are hungry for new business opportunities, the GWA’s Association Outreach Committee has been working hard to develop relationships with other associations and shows.



At Navy Pier, GWA’s exhibitors will be in a separate room that is adjacent to the IGC Show exhibit floor. In addition to the GWA trade show, your registration to the Conference & Expo will give you full admission to the entire IGC Show, including exhibits, seminars, keynote speakers including Daymond John of the TV show Shark Tank and a Tuesday evening concert by the Marshall Tucker Band. Full registration to the IGC Show normally costs $449. (Photo credit IDC)

“The seminars are really good,” says Diane Blazek, director of All-America Selections and the National Garden Bureau and a GWA board member. “They will help everybody understand the trends of garden retailing.” Market research is one of IGC’s specialties.

“This year,” Morey said, “Sessions will cover topics including multi-channel online marketing; selling to the age cohort that comes after millennials (they don’t have a catchy name yet, but they’re the next gardeners); and dealing with the media (that’s us!).” Find out more about the IGC Show at


A regular shuttle bus loop will carry GWA Conference & Expo attendees from the shared hotel, the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Partnering with IGC has allowed GWA to secure reasonable room rates for this expensive city.

Both shows, as well as the GWA education sessions, will be at the end of Navy Pier, which runs almost half a mile out into Lake Michigan from Chicago’s shoreline. The pier is not only a meeting center but Chicago’s most visited tourist attraction, with a whirl of experiences including restaurants, stores, a huge Ferris wheel, a world-class theater specializing in Shakespeare, a children’s museum, a museum of historic stained glass and, of course, breathtaking views of the lake and the city skyline curving away to the south.

Key to IGC: Planning

The IGC at Chicago’s Navy Pier will be a new experience for many GWA members. Experienced attendees have some advice: Plan ahead.

“It’s a huge show,” said  Katie Rotella, public relations manager of Ball Horticultural in West Chicago, Illinois, which exhibits at both GWA and IGC. “People aren’t prepared for how big it is, visually and literally.” For perspective, a typical ICG Show has at least a dozen times as many exhibitors as a typical GWA conference.

Here are some tips from Rotella, Blazek and Morey for making the most of your time at an IGC Show.

  • Plan ahead. Look over the exhibitor list that will be posted on the IGC Show website at and prioritize. Do you have a magazine story to do on containers? Look for sources. Could you write marketing content for garden companies? Look for potential clients that are based in your region or hardiness zone.
  • Attend a seminar. Learn about the retail market. Remember, the people who shop at garden centers are also the people who buy books, magazines and search online for garden information online.
  • Check out the New Vendor Zone. This section is for new products, which may be great fodder for a blog post or a story pitch and often highlight trends.
  • Collect literature. There’s a lot of ground to cover. Even for those who try to travel light, it’s efficient to gather up printed material to review back in the hotel room.
  • Don’t expect swag. Free samples and plants are part of the GWA Conference & Expo, but not the IGC Show. “It’s a different culture,” Blazek said. There will be some plant exhibitors, but most booths will be taking sales orders for hard goods, everything a garden center carries that doesn’t have chlorophyll.
  • Network with visitors as well as exhibitors. The other people touring the show are mostly garden center staff. They may need services you can provide.
  • Bring business cards. Have some copies of work samples or a handy link to your website or online portfolio, in case you have an opportunity to show someone what you can do.

Meet the Author

Beth Botts has written hundreds of articles about gardens and nature for publications including the Chicago Tribune and magazines including Organic Gardening, Country Gardens and Chicagoland Gardening. Raised on the South Side of Chicago by an organic gardener, she now gardens in deep shade on the north side of a four-story apartment building. She crowds her roses into one small bed where the sun sneaks between the trees and grows tomatoes and herbs on the third-floor porch. Her website is

Author: GardenComm

GardenComm, formerly known as GWA: the Association for Garden Communicators, provides leadership and opportunities for education, recognition, career development and a forum for diverse interactions for professionals in the field of gardening communication. GardenComm members includes book authors, bloggers, staff editors, syndicated columnists, free-lance writers, photographers, speakers, landscape designers, television and radio personalities, consultants, publishers, extension service agents and more. No other organization in the industry has as much contact with the buying public as GardenComm members.

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