Thursday, November 1, 2007

My experience at the Greeting Card Association Convention

Each fall, I attend the GCA’s annual convention. This year, was the 66th Annual Convention (yes, it is pretty well-established) and the theme was “Mapping Our Future,” using a Highway 66 sign as the logo for the event. Carlos Llanso of Legacy Publishing was the chairman of the Convention this year, and he did a great job.

I love going to the Convention every year, because it is a great chance for me to spend quality time with NSS exhibitors and suppliers in the industry. I also don’t mind that the Convention is always held at a nice hotel or resort. This year, the Convention was held in Naples, FL at the Naples Grande Resort and Club the second week of October, at a time when it was just getting chilly here in the NYC area.

But, as I said, the true highlight of the event is spending time with some of the great people in this industry. A welcome reception kicks off the event, with lots of hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. It also is a time when people are scrambling to meet each other and get their signatures! A few years back, a GCA member came up with this great idea of facilitating attendees chatting with each other. We all get a signature sheet (really 3 pages, front and back) that includes the names of all speakers and attendees. As there were more than 100 attendees, this was quite a challenge! Everyone gets pretty “into it” as there is fake money to be won here – this year, Frenchies- named for outgoing GCA president, Don French, of Paper Magic.

As you can see, Don has a good sense of humor!

The money is used on the last night to bid for great prizes in the live & silent auctions – fun!! The real point, though, is to talk to folks, and this little signature thing really works! The reception is lively, people get to meet each other on the first night, and they have a reason to introduce themselves to each other! I love it!

Here’s Rick Ruffner and Chip Owen from Avanti, on the second night, after getting back from a dinner cruise in the gulf:

And here’s David Hutchison of BrightMARKS with his wife Connie (love her!) in the hotel bar’s lounge area after the cruise:

Of course, the program also features a good number of presentations and committee meetings. This year’s line-up was stellar, and the highlights for me were Ed Tate, a professional speaker who inspired the group reminding us to say “yes” to our potential; and Mary B. Lucas, who talked about succeeding in the people business. Mary wrote a book of lessons she learned from her dad, things that helped her in her business. Her dad owned a butcher shop, and so the book is aptly called “Lunchmeat and Life Lessons.” My favorite lesson is “look for the like”; that is, look for something that you like in every person (in Mary’s case it was a tough client). Not that I have any tough clients, of course!! Hallmark sponsored Mary’s presentation, and even bought each and every attendee Mary’s book. Thank you! I’ve shared it with Patti, and will pass it around to the rest of the team members when she is done. Two other speakers I enjoyed were Sue Buchta from American Greetings, and Margaret Walch from the Color Association of the United States.

There are other get-togethers throughout the event, and some down-time, which I enjoyed with Dorene VanHouten, publisher of Greetings etc.

Here’s Dorene with Susan January of Leanin’ Tree:

Some of the people I got to know better during the Convention included Nicky Burton, from Calypso Cards (who’s exhibited in the NSS since 2000, but this was my first chance to really get to know her – she’s great – and has led an interesting life!); Sheila O’Hara from Avanti (so involved in her community); and I always make sure to talk with Richard Evans from Birchcraft and his wife Catherine, as well as Tom and Cyndee Otto from Exclusive Bordering/Harry Otto Printing. These are all fun and accomplished people – it’s work, but it doesn’t’ feel like it!

Here’s Catherine, Cyndee and Tom:

The final night features a dinner dance, but only after the auction, led so very well by Mark Vando of National Envelope and his lovely wife, Yolanda. Here’s Mark with Jack Withiam, executive vice president and general counsel here at GLM and also a GCA Board member:

Mike Oleskow of Max & Lucy has been attending the GCA Convention since 1999 (he’s a great dance partner, btw) and here he is with Jodee Stevens, of Cardthartic, who attended the Convention for her first time this year.

Okay, I know this one is really scary, but here is April Durrett, of B. Shackman wearing her auction prize, a fantastic mask from the Paper Magic Group.

Pretty great, right? I wonder if she scared any Trick–or-Treaters at her house last night. I would probably turn around and run! But April is much better looking than this! Here she is with her mother-in-law, Johanna:

See, much better!

If you are a greeting card publisher, or a supplier to the industry, and you haven’t attended the GCA Convention, you might consider it for next year. The event is a lot of learning, sharing and fun. And, because this is the greeting card industry, after all, you will find every attendee more than welcoming, happy to see you, and interested in what you do! For more information, visit the GCA’s website.

Hey, and this is not supposed to be a plug! But truthfully, as a person working in the greeting card industry (even if it is from the show end) I really believe in the Association and in the value of attending this Convention, and I thought I’d share some of my highlights with you!

- Kelly

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