Say It Simply – My Time At CitiesAlive 2015

Last week I had the pleasure of attending CitiesAlive 2015 in Brooklyn, NY – probably the largest annual gathering of green roof and green wall professionals in the United States. It was an enriching experience.

I was invited by SuitePlants, a customer of ours that makes a very cool series of picture frame planters. While there I enjoyed dozens of conversations with industry folks and heard about all their latest advancements in green roof and wall technology. One woman from a local green roof installer in Brooklyn was even demoing an extremely inexpensive and reliable runoff sensing system she built using an Arduino!

Unsurprisingly, I was the only third party logistics person in attendance (that I could find). This meant people really had to “dumb down” their content for me. For example, I was talking with a business owner that sells growth media and had to stop him for an explanation on “intensive” and “extensive” systems (shallow soil versus deep soil). I interrupted another man for an explanation about phosphorus, algae blooms and how that applied to the green roofs (it’s bad). As I mentioned before, it was an enriching experience.

Inevitably, when talking with people we’d get to the point where they asked to hear about my business. According to my name tag, I was in logistics. This meant I did something complex. Consequently, the first few times people asked me, I responded with a logistical brain dump not dissimilar to a lecture about the virtues of a particular species of sedum (little flowery plants often used in green roofs). More than once I asked someone about their product’s harmonization code. More than once I received a confused look in return.

After two or three conversations like this, I realized a radical simplification was needed. People didn’t need to hear about all my obscure details. They wanted something they could relate to instantly. So, I gave it to them. Questions about “logistics” became, “We handle all the warehousing and delivery for your products so you can stay focused on greening the planet.” The confused looks went away.

Granted, in most conversations happening at this conference, the green-roof-jargon slipped out of mouths and into brains without a hitch. However, a personal takeaway/reminder for me was to always mind my audience and default to “say it simply.”

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