Registration Open for TOCA’s 30th Annual Meeting in Charlotte

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By Den Gardner
Executive Director

Registration is now open for TOCA’s 30th Annual Meeting in Charlotte, N.C., from April 30 through May 2.

As I did in the last issue of TOCA Talk, with “Carolina In My Mind,” let’s ponder the lyrics below and enjoy the link to one of James Taylor’s all-time greatest hits!

In my mind I’m gone to Carolina.

Can’t you see the sunshine?

Can’t you just feel the moonshine?

Ain’t it just like a friend of mine to hit me from behind?

Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind.

This is TOCA’s fourth trip to the Carolinas. TOCA did its meeting in Raleigh, N.C., in 1994 (home of the infamous golf course described by former TOCA President Ron Smith as “vegetatively challenged”), went back to Asheville, N.C., in 2011, with a trip in between in 2003 in Charleston, S.C.

The new Embassy Suites Uptown Charlotte is the location of this year’s meeting. With plenty of TOCA members in the state, attendees can count on a special event, with professional development geared to today’s green industry communicators, with a smattering of indoor and outdoor events that may hold a surprise or two for all.

TOCA has settled into a familiar and likable format the past several years. This year there are a couple tweaks/twists to the format. That means:

  • Board meeting Tuesday, April 30, in the afternoon.
  • The evening informal gathering of all TOCA members and the “newbie/first timers” event will be held again, but the dinner that follows will include everyone who wants to join an evening of mingling at a restaurant, which is still being determined. Regardless, any TOCA member, the board and the “newbies” will dine together.
  • On Wednesday morning, we will continue our current format as we recognize our Environmental Communicator of the Year (sponsored by Project EverGreen) and our intern.
  • The remainder of the morning will be a workshop titled, “Interview Tips & Tales from the Press Box: Lessons on Becoming Professional-Grade Curious,” featuring Mick Mixon, play-by-play announcer for the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers. In addition to 40 years of experience as a sports announcer, Mixon has taught classes for the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism and Wake Forest University School of Business. He won a regional Emmy in 2008 and was named North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year three times.
  • Wednesday afternoon will also be a new twist as ALL members interested will be treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the Wells Fargo Championship at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte. The official tournament start is Thursday and TOCA members will get a look at course preparations by the staff at Quail Hollow. There is no golf tournament this year.
  • Our opening night reception Wednesday evening promises to highlight all that TOCA and Charlotte have to offer the attendees.
  • Thursday is a full day, which includes our keynote speaker, workshops/seminars, the important business meeting and the evening awards banquet, which recognizes the best in TOCA communications. Also, TOCA will induct an outstanding member into the TOCA Hall of Fame.

Wednesday Tour at Quail Hollow

Scott Hollister of Golf Course Superintendents Association of America has been working diligently with Keith Wood and Shane Ormann from Quail Hollow on the TOCA field trip. “They were excited about the prospect of having us there and are very willing to work with us in any way we need to make this a success,” said Hollister.

The tentative agenda is below.

  • Noon-12:30 p.m. — Travel to Quail Hollow (this will likely be by bus)
  • 12:30-12:45 p.m. — Get badges, go through security, etc.
  • 12:45-1:15 p.m. — Tour of media center with Lee Patterson
  • 1:15-1:30 p.m. — Walk/carts to maintenance facility
  • 1:30-2:30 p.m. — Presentations with Keith, PGA Tour Agronomy, etc.
  • 2:30-3:00 p.m. — Tour of maintenance facility
  • 3:00-5:00 p.m. — Free time on the golf course
  • 5:00-5:30 p.m. — Travel to Embassy Suites

People will be free to head back to the hotel after the main tour is over about 3 p.m. There are busses running from the hotels to the golf course during this time. People can return at their leisure.

Ren LaForme returns

We are thrilled to announce that our keynote speaker Ren LaForme returns this year after getting rave reviews last year in Cincinnati. LaForme, digital tools reporter, the Poynter Institute, wowed the crowd last year with his presentation on new digital tools.

“I’m finishing part two for my main digital tools presentation,” LaForme told us. “I’m planning to split that new work into its own session and dig deep into how to take advantage of those great, new technologies.”

It’s also likely LaForme will dig into metrics because, as he says, “Metrics matter in that they give us the feedback that we need to make our work better (and keep our companies/clients/associations, etc., happy).”

LaForme will likely speak on two overarching types of analytics information and what you can learn about your work and your audiences from each. “Then, we’ll cover how you can improve them and ‘easy wins’ to try right now,” he said.” Then, we’ll go beyond website metrics and talk about information you can learn from social media and elsewhere.” 

Panel on branded content/native advertising

The Thursday afternoon panel will represent experts from legal to media to marketing, as this method to reach audiences continues to be popular amid some controversies to be explored by the panel.

Confirmed panelists include two business-to-business media experts, representing a national ag media company and a public relations (PR) guru known well to TOCA members. Our publishing portion of the panel will be handled by Gregg Hillyer (an editorial director in St. Louis) and Sheri Seger (an advertising director in Chicago) from DTN/The Progressive Farmer. Our PR expert will be McGavock Edwards, strategic communications director for Eckel & Vaughan, Raleigh, N.C. McGavock is a past TOCA board president (many years ago) but has mostly been out of the Green Industry the past few years. Most recently, she is back doing some senior consulting for a new turf and ornamental equipment company client at Eckel & Vaughan.

Market research

The need for affordable, yet effective market research continues to be of key importance to TOCA members. To that end, a market research session that will focus on conducting this important work on a reasonable budget will be led by Kim Meyer, Kynetec.

TOCA strategic plan

As you know, TOCA is now 30 years old. The board, through phone interviews, a survey to all members and a two-day strategic plan workshop, is ready to provide members with a look at what the next several years will look like for the organization as it transitions for the future.

This will be conducted during the business meeting at the end of the day Thursday.

The TOCA Program Committee – Scott Hollister, Mark LaFleur, Lyndsey Newnam, Amy Jones, Pat Morrow, Cindy Code, Russ Warner and staff – is to be commended for its work on this year’s program.

TOCA also thanks G&S Business Communications in Raleigh, which has stepped up to handle the theme for 2019 and the awards program.

Finally, we also remind TOCA members about the TOCA Foundation Silent Auction. The first year we brought in $4,000 and last year that amount increased to $5,000. The foundation is used to fund our youth programs, such as scholarships and internships.

All members are encouraged to donate an item for the auction. Contact Kyle Wieskus at for more information. Pat Morrow of Bayer ( is the volunteer chair. Or, go to the TOCA website at and link to the silent auction forms.

See you soon in Charlotte!

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