TCI Virtual Summit ’21 Q&A

December 8, 2020 |  Written by Elizabeth Schulte


The upcoming  TCI Virtual Summit ’21 is going to look different, but that does not change the value and focus that TCIA has brought us over the years.


I remember my first TCI Expo in 2008 as a student of Urban Forestry at Western Illinois University, Go Leathernecks! We drove up to Purdue University where we all loaded into a charter bus filled with students from all over the Midwest, with our gear and study books we prepared for the student competitions and the long drive to Hartford, Connecticut. At the conference, I was able to meet many of the mentors I still look up to today, and peers that are at professional and even executive levels in their careers today. I had a blast, met new people in the industry, saw new technology and equipment, and participated in the student tree climbing competitions.

Elizabeth hanging out in a chipper at the TCI Expo in 2009
Elizabeth and her climbing crew at the TCI Expo in 2008

Connecting In New Ways

Over the past year, conferences across the globe operate differently and it is a struggle to re-create the introductions, excitement, and hands-on opportunities in-person conferences offer. But, I am naturally an optimist and believe things will improve as we learn new ways to connect through this process. I reached out to Jon Gerstenberger, the Corporate Marketing Manager for TCIA to find out how they are approaching conferences this year and the innovations they are coordinating to keep education and networking at the forefront of the TCI Virtual Summit ’21.


Read our discussion below:

With the pausing of in-person learning and networking opportunities, how has TCIA been agile and created new opportunities to continue delivering these values?

This is a great question. It has been challenging to create those networking opportunities for our members, especially with the decision to not hold TCI EXPO 2020, but our team quickly transitioned to offering webinars to our members around managing COVID-19 in their businesses, and once we saw how much appetite there was for that connection, even in a digital space, we pivoted again to offering more general educational webinars. Luckily, we also had initiatives planned we were able to expedite to address the drastic change in everyone’s business, such as our learning management software platform, which is aimed to offer our credentialing programs remotely, as well as our first TCI Virtual Summit, digital education, and networking that will provide our whole industry to connect in January.


It wasn’t just our tree care company members that experienced this massive interruption to their businesses – our corporate members felt it too. We launched brand new digital advertising opportunities months earlier than expected to give our corporate members a place to reach their customers in spite of evaporating marketing budgets.

2020 is the year of the pivot, as everyone has experienced, and TCIA is doing it’s best to listen to our members and get them the resources and opportunities they need to pull through all of this.

What are the hardest challenges you are facing to keep arborists engaged? 

To be honest, it’s how busy many of them are right now, in spite of everything. We try to make sure when they come out of the field, even for a day, we have anything they might need right at their fingertips so they can get back to work without wasting any time. Being the owner/operator of a tree care company has never been easy, as you need to be working on your business as much as you are working in your business in many cases, so I think our biggest challenge will be to continue to stay prepared for whatever our members, both tree care companies and corporate, need in the future and being able to stay ahead of those needs.

How do you envision these new learning platforms will affect our industry in the future?

I think this is a bright spot for the future of our industry because I think everyone has been shown that education and networking can still be effective in the digital environment. It’s a hands-on industry, so I think to many, the idea of doing training or demonstrations virtually seemed unrealistic, and while it might never compete with the in-person networking and classroom format, I think it will be a part of our industry that continues to expand, and allows smaller companies the opportunity to access resources they might not have had the time or budget for previously.

Man in checkered shirt standing next to a life size model race car and track.
Evan Sims didn't miss a second of the TCI Expo in 2018
Man standing in front of a monitor with his back in view. Shirt says, "Do Work," and banner with TreePlotter™ JOBS and picture of trees in background
Evan Sims was busy introducing the world to TreePlotter™ JOBS at the TCI Expo in 2019

What are you most excited about in your new efforts to keep arborists engaged and continuing their desire for training and information transfer? 

Accessibility. It’s amazing to think any arborist with internet access will be able to interact with our educational programs and network with other arborists, whether it’s through the TCIA mobile app, our Virtual Summit, our webinar series, etc., it is all going to be available to them right at their finger times.


We work in a very entrepreneurial industry, and I think this accessibility will allow even more arborists to branch out on their own and to be more efficient in how they get their training and the resources they are able to tap into while they work in their business.

What keeps your outreach team inspired to innovate?

Knowing that the risk associated with working in the tree care industry doesn’t go away, regardless of how the world changes, is a huge motivation for TCIA as a whole. We know despite having to change a lot of what we do to fit the new normal, we need to deliver the same quality we have in the past to continue to help improve our industry and keep everyone safe.


Our group has embraced the challenge of continuing to deliver on what our members have come to expect from us, and it’s exciting to see where this will all go, and what innovations our members will encourage us into next!

“See You” at the TCI Virtual Summit ’21

I appreciate Jon taking the time to talk with PlanIT Geo™ and provide insights into their efforts and all the opportunities they are offering to TCIA members.

My calendar is booked to attend and exhibit at the TCI Virtual Summit’21 January 13-15!  The conference schedule will allow for attendees to visit the virtual trade show between sessions.


During these session breaks, we will provide giveaways and live demos of our software product TreePlotter™ JOBS, a modern map-based arborist estimating software built and designed for tree care companies. Come check us out or just “drop by” and say HI!

Get to Know JOBS in 90 Seconds
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