Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Award winner Dan Austin and ABC Gardening Australian presenter Clarence Slockee (Image: Karen Smith)
Horticultural Careers

Industry Events: Are they worth attending?

By Daniel Fuller

A few times each year, we have the opportunity to attend an industry event. They cost money and they take time to attend, so are they worth the investment?

Recently, the Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH) held their National Day Conference for 2022, with their awards night following. The day started at 8.30 in the morning and I left at around 11pm. The day event cost $270, and it was $130 for the following awards dinner.

$400 isn’t exactly chump change, but I consider it a worthwhile investment. Here’s why.

When I pulled up to park my car in the morning, I caught up with Georgia Warren, a previous guest on my podcast. We had a quick chat before stepping into the venue at the beautiful Rose St Markets in Fitzroy.

I then saw a familiar face that I’ve never met in person before. Jason Summers from Remarkable Trees was scheduled to speak, and he’s somebody that I have been connected with on LinkedIn for some time now, and a person I respect.

I then caught up with Clarence Slockee from Gardening Australia, Michael Casey who was stepping down as President of the AIH, and my mentor (and editor of this magazine) Karen Smith. This was all in the first 15 minutes of arriving. These aren’t people that I get to see every day. In fact, the only place I get to hang out with all of these people in one place is at an industry event. The conversations I had throughout the whole day have provided an abundance of ideas for future articles, as well as for my own businesses.

Everybody that attends a horticulture industry event is on the same page. We all love plants and the environment, and we also seem to enjoy people and having a good laugh. This makes it really easy to connect with new people, rather than just saying g’day to the people we already know.

Sure, we can network online or over the phone. That’s definitely still happening in my life. But a digital connection just isn’t the same as being present at events and meeting people face-to-face.

Networking isn’t the only benefit you can gain from going to industry events. The educational presentations are given by industry speakers and experts. We’re talking about industry events here, not consumer events, so the information is always deep and high quality.

I find, working in horticulture, most people don’t take themselves too seriously. Clarence Slockee was MC throughout the day event, and his antics and banter with Michael had the crowd in stitches. All of the speakers were quick to smile and laugh along with their fellow attendees, their talks were incredibly informative, and there were some great questions asked by the audience.

Costa Georgiadis from Gardening Australia was MC for the evening event, and he was true to form. The good vibes continued all night as we were served endless rounds of drinks and delicious finger food, as we all made new connections and strengthened existing ones.

Attending the awards night is a great experience to see people with similar values receiving recognition for their hard work, dedication and inspiration. You can speak with them in an intimate setting and ask them for advice about your own career. My experience is that most people are generous with information and advice, especially in horticulture.

I recently put out a poll on my LinkedIn page asking people whether they attend industry events for the networking, for the educational speakers, or both.

68% of people voted that they attend for both networking and learning, 16% said networking, 8% said learning from speakers, and 8% said they don’t attend. That tells me that the majority of people attending events are motivated individuals who are moving up in life, exactly the sort of people that I want to surround myself with.

I’m a horticulturist of 10 years, but I still feel like my career is only just starting. I wish I’d been attending industry events and conferences when I was in my early 20s, because I could be so much further along in my career. But we live and we learn, don’t we? These events won’t help you much if you sit on Facebook while the speakers are talking, or if you sit in the corner while everybody else is networking, but if you put the effort into them, you can get a great financial return on the investment of your ticket cost, and a day out of your calendar. The feel-good vibes are a bonus on top of your investment.

Main photo: Award winner Dan Austin and ABC Gardening Australian presenter Clarence Slockee (Image: Karen Smith)

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