With a 144-year history, AmericanHort is the leading national association for the green industry, representing 15,000 members and affiliated businesses including breeders, greenhouse and nursery growers, retailers, distributors, interior and exterior landscapers, florists, students, educators, researchers, and manufacturers. AmericanHort impacts industry growth through advocacy and education and it cultivates successful businesses by connecting the industry across states and segments to give members opportunities to expand their network and resources.
For the last 90 years, AmericanHort has hosted Cultivate, the largest all-industry trade show and conference, attracting more than 10,000 professionals from as many as 40 countries to AmericanHort’s hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Cultivate offers attendees access to hundreds of exhibitors, best-in-class tours, workshops, and the best professional development opportunities available in the industry. States AmericanHort president and CEO Ken Fisher, “Our team continues to work hard to deliver the most relevant educational programming and showcase the industry’s newest varieties and hottest trends in order to provide an exceptional Cultivate experience for all of our attendees, exhibitors, and speakers.”
In early 2020, the AmericanHort team was finalizing plans for their largest event to date, with 650+ exhibitors and a packed agenda including a keynote presentation from world renowned author Jon Petz and a behind-the-scenes tour of the Columbus Zoo. Four months prior to the event, however, the COVID-19 outbreak made headlines worldwide, preventing travel for many.
Suddenly faced with the possibility that Cultivate could be canceled for the first time in its 90-year history, AmericanHort quickly learned everything they could about virtual events. States Karen Limbert, AmericanHort Vice President and Controller, “The Cultivate event is the event for every segment of the green industry. It’s the preeminent resource for best practices, new plant varieties, and product innovation. AmericanHort members look forward to it and would certainly miss the opportunity to share, learn, and network, and we couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing them. We knew enough to know there might be a way to pull the event off virtually, and we threw all of our resources into figuring out how to accomplish it.”
The first challenge was learning how to translate such an incredibly beautiful event, with thousands of live plants and large booths, into an engaging virtual experience. Mary Beth Cowardin, Vice President Marketing & Member Engagement remembers thinking, “There’s no way we can replicate the sensory impact of this show online.” But as the team met with 6Connex and began to understand the options available to them, they were reassured Cultivate’s unique aesthetic would not be completely lost. In addition, several 6Connex features stood out: