“Working” a Trade Show

Jacqueline at Long Beach 1705848_preview.jpg

by Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule

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.








Author: Staff @ GWA

GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators, formerly known as the Garden Writers Association, provides leadership and opportunities for education, recognition, career development and a forum for diverse interactions for professionals in the field of gardening communication. GWA 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 GWA members.

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