Compressed into just a few hectic days each third week of October, the GIE+EXPO roars by like a runaway freight train. This year’s event, the largest ever in terms of attendees and equipment, offered more opportunities to learn, test landscape gear and network than ever before.

Whether the most recent GIE+EXPO was your first trip to Louisville or you’ve attended it regularly, you’re always bombarded by so much new information and so many new ideas that you may not know what to act on first when you return to your business. And you must act, even if you can only implement a single idea or suggestion to move your company and yourself another step in the right direction.

The real value of your experience in Louisville is taking concrete steps to turn what you learn into positive returns. You validate the financial and time investments you make to participate in the GIE+EXPO (or any conference or trade show) by actually implementing some of what’s been shared with you.

Wring Value Out of Every Session

This brings me to an observation that may be revelational to some of you and perhaps painful for others.

From personal experience (after participating in every GIE+EXPO) I’ve come to realize, stubbornly, that I cannot rely solely on my memory to retain the great information that is shared at such a busy event. As impressed as I am with what I am hearing, I soon forget much of what I’ve learned and experienced there after I leave. I’ve never been able to learn by osmosis. I’m convinced very few people learn that way.

Even my note-taking skills are tested to their limits given the mountains of great information shared during each of my visits to Louisville. Yes, as I walk the trade show floor, I can jot down pertinent information about the products I see or test in the demo area. That works fine for me. The educational sessions are a different matter, however. Whether I try to gather the information by keystroking on my laptop or write it in a notebook, relying on my cryptic reporter’s shorthand, I find even a few days later that the information I’ve managed to save still falls far short of what I experienced in the sessions.

This year’s educational offerings by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) were exceptional, presented by the most successful and knowledgeable business professionals in the industry. So eagerly did attendees flock to some of the sessions, NALP staffers had to hurriedly hustle extra seats along meeting room walls.

While the landscapers and grounds pros filling the rooms showed a remarkable thirst for the knowledge the speakers shared with them, I saw surprisingly few of the attendees taking notes. That puzzled me given how faulty our memories are.

Recordings Beat Memories Every Time

Here’s a technique I now use to make sure I get as much as I can out of the sessions that interest me the most. Perhaps you can use this or a similar technique to capture and preserve the great things you hear that might inspire you to make positive changes in your company or your life.

I sit as near to the front of the room as possible and use the record feature on my iPad to capture the presentation. I realize I will not have time at the GIE+EXPO or perhaps for several days to play back the recording and revisit the speaker’s thoughts. But at least I have them to review, and I can share them with my team if I feel that would be beneficial.

Even as I record the session, I keep a small notebook in front of me. When I hear the presenter make a particularly valuable point, I jot down a short note of its essence along with the time it appears on my recording. By the end of an hour-long presentation I may have a dozen or more short notes reminding me of specific bits of information.

Finally, ask presenters to share their presentations with you. Many speakers will email their PowerPoint presentation to you if you give them your business card with a short reminder.

It’s probably apparent to you that I (along with my colleagues at Turf magazine and have hours of sessions from the GIE+EXPO to revisit. We will not be selfish when it comes to sharing this information with you in the days and weeks to come.