Reviving the Past by reinventing the Future | Regional Meetings

<posted March 12, 2015>  It is no secret that our in-person AHS functions are struggling to meet the needs of our membership – especially regional meetings.  Those who continue to religiously attend summer regional meetings note the rising registration costs (typically $119-$169) and yet also note the scaling back of tours, gluttonous food options at the hotel and in the gardens, giveaways, auction lists, printed materials, free plants on the bus, and the swankiness of the hotel. 

Others have cancelled their regionals due to low attendance, lack of interested planners and geographic constraints.  Our aging membership and “the economy” are two other factors oft-cited in our quest to figure out how to get more bodies together in one place, in person, to commiserate on the daylily.  Some regions have taken to scheduling fall, winter or spring events to not compete with the summer AHS National and have been successful at growing from year to year.  Multi-state regions offer state-specific regionals to relieve travel burdens.

When I attended my first regional meeting in 1999, I went home with two gifted tote bags overflowing with free and desirable plants, brochures, magazines, pens, and t-shirts.   I ate three meals a day for two days, and was offered more snacks in each garden than I could have consumed in good conscience.

Financially, local clubs are no longer able to fund the up-front costs required of such an event.  Deposits for buses, catering and host hotel space can run in the thousands.  Not only do they not want to come out of their treasuries to do so, they do not feel an allegiance to AHS to step up to do so.  (a topic for another day.)

Here is my bold statement:  you have to sacrifice something in order to create distinction: Old schedules, big names showing up all expenses paid with their dog-and-pony show, customers that demand more than you should give. Giving up old ways of thinking in the short term for higher profitability in the form of attendance and regional fellowship in the longer term is soul tearing. Saying ‘good bye’ to something that worked so well for a while (and may be still working somewhat) is extremely hard.  Our biggest cost putting on the regional for 210 people in 2011 was the bus.  It cost almost $70 per person for one day and a half for buses alone. But something has to change.  I think we can only revive the past by reinventing the future.  It wont be easy, and it wont be quick, but it will be done.

So, in 2016 our regional summer meeting will not be hosted by a club.  It is hosted and organized by 6 individuals who wish to put on one heck of a party for Region 2.  The regional board voted to subsidize our efforts with budget oversight and we are having a ball planning so far.

We're thinking along the lines of this:

Day One (Friday):  An AHS-Accredited Daylily Show, (yes - a REAL show at a regional meeting) Open Gardens, Dinner on your own.  A very structured "Meet and Greet" social evening event to let attendees catch up and prepare for the weekend.  Several 15-minute quicky presentations from hybridizers in Region 2. Hospitality and Judge's Clinics held in the later evening to accommodate travel restrictions.

Day Two (Saturday):   Sun up to sun down bus tour of gardens throughout central Illinois with lunch in one of the larger gardens, daylily sales in some of them and a shopping stop at a huge nursery along the way.  Sit down dinner followed by Live Auction.  No clinics, no meetings, no rush.

Day Two (Sunday):  Regional Business meeting and Q&A served over full, hot breakfast buffet and omelet station.  Attendees will NOT TOUR VIA BUS on Sunday, but instead choose four 30-minute Workshops from a list of 10 or more for education and fun.  Open Gardens in the afternoon.

And we are shooting to do all that for a $100 registration fee.  Can't be done, you say?  We cant wait for you to see us do it.

Would YOU come to a Daylily Regional like that?

I like this structure and I think it resonates with people's need for choice and control with their money and time.  

Here are some topics we are considering for the seminars:
Plant Sales
Holding successful live, silent and other types of auctions
General Fundraising
Club Programming Ideas/Building a Better Club
Soil testing
Garden Design
Sharing Your Daylilies on the Internet (PPT, YouTube, Flickr, Blog, Website)
Hosting an Accredited Daylily Show
Daylily Genetics
Building a raised bed
Eye Candy (this workshop would be a well-crafted PPT or movie of seedlings and upcoming intros with hybridizers in the audience to answer questions)
Working with Water beds (as they relate to daylilies - LOL)
Hybridizing 101 (where pretentious know it alls are not allowed to dominate
the meeting and intimidate others)
Advanced Hybridizing
Building Youth Involvement
Publishing Newsletters
Keeping Records (databases of collections and/or hybridizing efforts)
Ask The Expert Panel Discussion (must submit three questions with your selection of this option and this workshop will have the BEST emcee)
Facebook/Twitter/Portal/Daylily Cyberspace  (general 101 primer on the options "out there")
Flower Design (hands-on)
AHS Open Forum - "Ask The Regional President"
Writing Press releases and communicating with the public (Publicity 101)
Building Robust Archives/History
Photoshop Tutorials / Demonstrations
Registering a Daylily (why, how, when, vocabulary)
The list is endless...

Regional Meetings should not be mini-nationals. Let AHS worry about all that fabulousness.  The more elaborate you try to be, and the more we try to "one-up" the meetings of the past, the fewer clubs will take on the job of hosting them.  I belong to the region with the highest membership in AHS and we still struggle to find local clubs to host a regional meeting.  

Region 2 cultivars:  (H.'Braided Lightening' and H.'Eat Our Wake Pintaheads')

Region 2 cultivars: (H.'Peasant Blouse' and H.' Swallowtail Kite')

I hope you'll plan to come to Peoria, Illinois in the summer of 2016 and see what might be the future for regional meetings.

Here is a link to register for this year's regional in Indianapolis.  I'll be there and cant wait to see and enjoy what they do!

Til next time- keep thinking creatively.  Nothing needs to be the way it always has been.


Joel Park said...

Wow - great thoughts on how turn a struggling situation into a winner! The combination of bus tour on Saturday and open gardens on Sunday, along with workshops and opportunities to socialize - all at a very reasonable price - sounds like a great plan! Looking forward to what you and the team craft for 2016 :-)

Saundra Dunn said...

I am energized just reading through the ideas this small but mightily creative group is coming up with. I am going to have to reread your blog because there was so much to digest in your reflections. But I'm in for 2016!!
Saundra in Michigan

Unknown said...

Love It. Love the format love the workshops ideas. Can't wait for 2016

Unknown said...

Great ideas! What do you plan for "A very structured "Meet and Greet" social evening event to let attendees catch up and prepare for the weekend"? I am looking for new ideas for the 2017 Region 11 Summer Meeting in Oklahoma City, which I am chairing. I hope to have a fun meet and greet on Friday evening.

Nikki Schmith said...

Hi, Emily! I am still working on the finer details of the WHAT, but results from the AHS National Convention attendee survey showed an overwhelming desire from attendees to have more "mingle time" and "opportunities to meet more people in a less structured setting." I envision cash bar, snacks, icebreakers involving nametags, a Q & A led by a dynamic emcee...Ill keep you posted! Its so nice to hear from you; I hope you are feeling well and enjoying the approaching spring. N

Nikki Schmith said...

Hey, Joel! I hope to see you "down this way" next summer for the event - of not sooner at MOBOT!

Nikki Schmith said...

Saundra- its totally a team effort and I am excited about what we are planning! Hope to see you there!!!

Unknown said...

Thsnks! Sounds like we think alike, as I have recommended those same things on surveys I have submitted. I will look foreard to hesting mote of the ideas your team develops. Question: Do you know of any daylily games? One region's attendees rated that the best part of their conference, better than garden tours!

Unknown said...

Sorry...guess I can't spell! I was trying to type too fast. I meant: I look forward to hearing more....
Cheers! Emily

Nikki Schmith said...

I do have some daylily games that involve identifying hybridizers of Stout winners, matching regional hybridizers with their intros, and some AHS trivia. I love games, too!


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