By Kate Copsey
Not too long ago being social and networking involved getting out of the chair and meeting people. Face to face meetings in coffee houses, restaurants, and other venues sealed business deals and were a pleasant distraction for solitary writers. Then the 21st century brought high-speed internet, Twitter, and Facebook into our lives. The art of face-to-face networking was replaced by constant communication in the virtual world.
The GWA Annual Conference is one of the few places where you can brush off your skills at networking in the real world with real conversations that are not limited to 64 character thoughts and hashtags. This networking bonanza begins with a round of meeting and greeting those friends in the industry that you may have only known in the virtual world from Facebook and Twitter or even email. Face-to-face meetings are subtly different from virtual conversations. The non-verbal cues we get from voice inflections or facial expressions are just two of these differences.
The attendees at a GWA Annual Conference can be divided in to three distinct groups: writers/communicators, publishers/editors, and representatives of horticultural companies such as Proven Winners, Corona, and David Austin Roses. All three of these groups rely on each other, which is one of the prime reasons for attending the conference. Writers find new plants to grow and promote, editors get to know writers that they can trust and remember for when they need a writer down the road, and horticultural companies make valuable contacts as they get the word out about their new products.
Over the years of attending the GWA conferences, my face-to-face connections have resulted in valuable contacts. I have been able find writers to fill a contract I had that required a writer in different regions of the continent. I have been approached by editors who needed writers in my geographic region or my topic of specialty. I also know the current marketing person to tap for images for books or articles or general information of how to grow a shrub or care for a tool.
For those who are new to this old fashioned way of communication, here are three tips to help you maximize the “face time” you have.
- Smile – not smileys – real smiles that reach your eyes and show the person you are approaching that you are glad to meet them. Non-verbal cues are as important as the words you use.
- Introduce yourself and what you do and have your business card handy to help make a positive first impression.
- Have something to say that is not about you. Draw the other person out by asking about them.
And now for three things not to do:
- Don’t monopolize a person’s attention for more than a few minutes – there are lots of people for both you and them to meet.
- Don’t forget that although the conference is fun, it is also work for everyone. Have a few goals for the conference and have a plan to achieve those goals.
- Don’t leave your business cards at home! Keep some of yours handy throughout the conference and be ready to accept them from everyone you meet. Business cards are great for making notes on so that you can recall what that person did and what they wanted you to send them.
September 16-19 is this year’s Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA. You will have two days where you can meet vendor representatives and three full days of garden tours. The tours give an added benefit on the bus rides because you can have a chat with the person next to you. Sign up for the conference and meet me there as you try your hand at networking the old fashioned way!
Meet the Author
Kate grew up in England, where vegetables were always part of the garden. Kate was the first host of the popular America’s Home Grown Veggie Show and continued as host for over 6 years with the program. She was a national board member for The Herb Society of America, and is currently on the board of GWA. As a writer Kate has written for local, regional and international newspapers as well as a variety of magazines. She has just released her first book with St. Lynn’s Press – The Downsized Vegetable Garden. Kate also enjoys giving presentations to the public and has always been a popular regional speaker wherever she has lived. Her talks range from basic gardening to herbs and vegetables, including growing vegetables in containers.