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by GardenComm Membership Committee

It’s tough to be a newbie at an event such as the GardenComm annual conference. There are so many long-time members greeting each other and acting so familiar with the other attendees and the process in general. Those attending for the first time might feel left out or uneasy about what’s going on.

The truth is that everyone at these meetings were first-timers themselves at one point. We all remember feeling awkward and isolated. My first meeting was in Philadelphia (in 2000, if I my memory is correct) and I clearly remember walking on all tours and eating dinner by myself.  So it’s not surprising that experienced attendees on the GardenComm Membership Committee want to make this year’s newbies as comfortable and connected as possible.

We’ve tried several methods of welcoming “first timers” at past annual meetings, and this year we’re mixing those experiences in hopes of connecting the newbies with each other as well as introducing them to mentors. Here is our plan for this meeting in Salt Lake, plus a couple suggestions for the new attendees as well as those experienced members who will be mentors to the first timers.

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This year’s first timer event will be broken into segments in order to facilitate many types of connections between attendees.  As people enter those who are mentors will be asked to take chairs in the mentor’s row. The new attendees will be shown to tables where they will join other first-timers. After a brief introduction by the Membership Committee, there will be a 15 to 20 minute period when the newbies will be connecting with each other, while the mentors reconnect with those they haven’t seen for a year.

First-timers will be instructed to go around the table and introduce themselves, exchanging business cards or cell numbers. These connections will be useful for making dinner plans or for future networking. Note that if you prefer not to use business cards your contact information will also be on the conference app. Those around the table at the first-timers event can check off fellow attendees’ names and contact information on the app.

After this initial introduction period attending board members will be introduced and the first timers will be invited to sit on the row of chairs that is opposite where the mentors have been seated. At this point there will be four or five segments when mentors will talk with the first-timer seated opposite…think speed dating without the pressure for meeting the love of your life. When the bell rings the mentors will move one chair to the side and everyone will chat with the new person across from them. It’s a high-energy, loud process, but it’s a way to let newbies introduce themselves to a few mentors one-on-one for a few minutes.

Once this speed schmoozing is finished, we will all proceed to the tradeshow and let the education and more networking begin!

Throughout the conference, there are additional ways that new members can take action to feel more connected.

  • Wear your first timer ribbon if you have one. This will allow those who have signed up to be mentors to recognize you throughout the conference.
  • If you’re a relative newbie but not a first timer, don’t hesitate to approach anyone wearing a mentor ribbon and introduce yourself. Initiate conversations with others as often as possible.
  • Use the app to ask questions, connect with others with similar goals or experiences, or invite people to join you at the bar or for dinner.

Meet the Authors

This piece was written by the GardenComm membership committee; we are actively seeking new committee members with fresh ideas, strong opinions, and the willingness to connect with others. This committee meets by conference call once a month on a Friday at noon Eastern time…we bring our own snacks and occasional plant chat. If you’d like to sit in on a call to see what we’re all about, contact Shelley Cramm shelleycramm@gardenindelight.com or C.L. Fornari  clfornari@yahoo.com.

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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