A New Brand of Education Debuting at the Green Industry Conference

New, high-level business speakers, fast-paced education, and intimate learning opportunities are the focus of some of the major changes planned for this year’s educational offerings at PLANET’s Green Industry Conference (GIC), held in conjunction with GIE+EXPO and Hardscape North America. 

Quick-fire education

A Learning Lounge that will include eighteen 20-minute educational sessions, a “Genius Bar” where attendees can talk with experts, a lounge for informal networking, and the PLANET Marketplace will be among the must-visit areas at the Kentucky Expo Center during this year’s GIC.

Research shows people want quick, top-line education packed into short sessions that provide only the most important information on a particular topic. The concept of the Learning Lounge is based on this research. The sessions, described as “TED-talks,” are based on the popular live talks and videos produced by TED, a nonprofit devoted to “ideas worth spreading,” which has distributed talks on many groundbreaking and thought-provoking topics.

If attendees want more information after one of the 20-minute sessions, they can follow up with industry leaders who will be available to them at the Genius Bar. The Learning Lounge will also double as a networking lounge, providing members with a place to convene, network, and share ideas throughout the conference. It will be open throughout the conference for networking but will only feature speakers and sessions at specific times. 

“We are really excited about this new opportunity to greatly expand the education opportunities that attendees have available to them and to bring it to them in a fast-paced, exciting way,” said Sabeena Hickman, CAE, CMP, PLANET CEO.

New speakers

The conference planning committee also worked hard to bring a large number of new speakers to GIC this year.

“Fifty percent of our speakers are new this year,” said Barbara Scheibe, who chairs the conference. “We are focusing on bringing people new educational opportunities that will really help company managers and owners with crucial aspects of their business, like employee development, health care reform, and marketing and growing their businesses.”

Most of the new speakers come from outside the landscape industry and bring expertise in marketing and business management. Some of the topics that will be covered from new speakers will help business owners and managers with content marketing, mobile marketing, social media, customer service, finances, and professional growth and leadership skills.

Small group learning

Many of the valuable takeaways that happen at the conference come from small group learning and side-bar discussions. The Breakfast With Champions is a perfect example. Attendees choose from approximately 80 topics, including recruiting, safety, human resources, finance, public relations, marketing, and community service. Participants sit at tables that can accommodate a total of 10 individuals and have in-depth discussions about their chosen topic. Each table is led by a moderator who is an expert in the field, and learning happens through peer discussions and real-world examples.

Last year, PLANET introduced its peer group program that is facilitated by the Wilson-Olyer Group. A 20-minute session describing how peer groups work and the progress company owners make with their personal business goals when they join a peer group will be presented by Bruce Wilson in the Learning Lounge.

Maximizing the educational experience

So how can you ensure that you are making the most of the conference? Joan Haller, PLANET’s director of education and events, offers a few tips to conference attendees to help maximize their experience:

Create your game plan ahead of time. Prior to the conference, read up on all the sessions and opportunities, and create a personal schedule for yourself so you know exactly where you want to be at what time to catch the sessions in which you are most interested.
Make sure your conference education aligns with your business goals. It helps to focus on one area of concentration at a conference. Consider what your No. 1 business problem or focus is, then choose the education session that best addresses it. If growing your business is the No. 1 goal, then choose sessions about business development, finance and marketing. If recruiting and building a strong workforce is your priority, then choose all the sessions that relate to that topic. That way, you really gather a lot of knowledge in one specific area. Have other members of your company focus on other topics, and then share the knowledge after the conference.
Make time for personal meetings and dinners with colleagues. Make sure there is time in your schedule to have coffee, lunch, or dinner with other attendees. Either schedule appointments ahead of time or make them during the conference. Conferences are a great opportunity to grab 20 minutes with someone with whom you have always wanted to connect. The face-to-face time is important in building relationships.
Have a networking goal. Determine your own goals in terms of meeting new people. Perhaps you are recruiting, or you are looking for subcontractors or mentors. Determine the types of people you would like to meet that would help support your business goals, and make it a priority to connect with those people. Set a goal of one, five, or 10 new personal contacts.


The Green Industry Conference, with all the different opportunities for education and networking, provides solutions for every type of business issue or concern.

Article and photos provided by PLANET.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *