By C.L. Fornari
As gardeners we know that everything is connected to everything else. So is it surprising that we’re constantly hearing about the importance of networking? Making connections with others has always been crucial when it comes to conducting business. We’re all more apt to hire or recommend someone we know and trust over a stranger.
The significance of relationship building was on my mind at the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) in Fort Lauderdale recently. I was in the good company of fellow garden writers who were all there to learn and grow our businesses.
As I schmoozed with the sales people and lusted after the tropical plants on display, I realized that visiting a trade show is no different than self-promotion in other venues. Whether we are looking for possible work at a convention, trying to find a publisher for a book, or promoting ourselves as speakers, photographers, or authors, the first step in networking is to cultivate common ground. The relationships that turn into business opportunities grow from shared interests and experiences.
But how do we start that networking process at a trade show? How can we garden communicators effectively market ourselves in this and other venues? Short of consuming dozens of the fictitious Powdermilk Biscuits from Prairie Home Companion, how does a shy person find “the strength to stand up and do what needs to be done”?
Over the years I’ve been a garden communicator I’ve had to develop strategies for weaving these webs of connection. Here are a few techniques that you might find useful as well.
- Make It Mutual. Focusing on common goals is a good way to start conversations and build relationships. You might be specifically promoting a book, your photography, or other communications business, but everyone in the green industry is marketing plants and gardening. The challenge is to do this it at a time when the public is glued to their digital devises. Ask others how they’re coping with these changing times. Question them about the ways they’re promoting gardening to the public and be willing in return to speak about what works for you.
- Be Generous. Think first about how you can help others. The Golden Rule was given gold status because it is so wise. Believe in good karma, that everything you do is returned to you threefold, and promote others in this industry as often as possible.
- Tap Into Your Inner Excitement. If you’re passionate and positive about your area of expertise, people are more likely to want to come along for the ride. Humans like to be a part of good things. We like to share what makes us feel good. This is one of the dearest things about Homo sapiens, so use it to your advantage.
- Fake It Until You Make It. When I confess to being a shy person, many don’t believe me. (I often suspect that many people with green thumbs are shy. We connect with plants more easily than with people – but that’s a topic for another day.) Long ago I learned that sometimes it’s smart to “behave as if” and act like I’m not bashful at all. It helps in such situations to think of the other person first and remember that we all stand on common soil.
Everyone in the green industry today has shared objectives and trials. Fortunately we’re all connected, and can cultivate goals and deal with these challenges together as we stand on common ground.
Meet the Author
C.L. Fornari is a garden geek who fell into communications as a way to put a somewhat legitimate framework around a serious case of plant lust. Her garden at Poison Ivy Acres can be found on Cape Cod, and her website/blog at GardenLady.com.