Let’s Get Together: Organizing GWA Regional and Connect Meetings

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By Kate Copsey

All regional meetings and connect meetings are intended to keep local members up to date with news from the organization. Connect meetings are considered less formal and are purely a social event where members can get to know each other better. Both members and non-members can attend the meetings. All meeting should be coordinated with the Regional Director but you do not need to be on the GWA board to start the ball rolling and be the organizer.

A Regional Meeting

Gasteiger gwalunch.jpgRegional meetings are a great opportunity to network in smaller groups and are perfect to get to know new members and have conversations about plants, publishers, and career development. A regional meeting generally takes place over one full day with everyone gathering at the same place at the start of the meeting. Each region hosts at
least one regional meeting per year. These meetings should have education, story tour, and networking.

At the start of the meeting, you can expect: A registration table with name tags on it (the tags are printed at the office). If you are the organizer you should expect a few late registrations who do not have tags and one or two that do not arrive so don’t wait too long before starting the day’s activities. Coffee and donuts are a common part of this early morning gathering. The cost for refreshments both at the start of the day and the lunch are covered in the registration.

The educational component of a regional meeting can be formal with a traditional ‘slide’ presentation, or informal with a guided tour. Regional meetings should include a short business meeting. Depending on the event, the board part of the meeting can be done at the start of the day (before attendees scatter for the story tours) or during lunch. This
part of the meeting is a chance for everyone to introduce themselves. This does take a few minutes and is not compulsory but site hosts and board members should be introduced. The director or board member in attendance will update everyone on GWA matters, encourage everyone to sign up for the annual conference, and deliver any other pertinent news.

clarke-patch-of-heavenTypical regional meeting story tours have two or three gardens – private, public, or both – to tour. Locations should be selected so that attendees will be able to develop story ideas and enjoy a casual environment where members network.

In addition to the formal meeting there is sometimes a trunk show and connect meeting. Neither of these are compulsory but are fun events. For the trunk show organizers solicit raffle items from attendees and sponsors. Often sponsors will send small donations for the raffle. Be prepared to have a car full of goodies both to bring to the meeting, and to take home.

There is usually a charge for the meeting to cover the event costs so that it does not come out as a loss. Full details as to how to estimate costs and pricing the event is on the GWA web page under Member Archives and Resources.

A Connect Meeting

Arthur IMG_1823.JPGConnect meetings are far less structured than regional meetings. They can be the last stop of a regional meeting, or a standalone meeting. Connect meetings are designed to get a group of members and potential members to meet on a social level. Connect meetings should be coordinated with the appropriate Regional Director but does not
need an elected Board or Regional director to be present. Instead any member in good standing can be approved as an Ambassador to organize one of these meetings. It is not necessary to have either an educational or business component in connect meetings although they may be included.

Connect meetings are particularly important in large regions where travelling to the regional meeting is difficult. These smaller meetings are great for networking and introducing new members to the group in a more casual environment.

Typical connect meetings occur at large garden shows and professional trade show locations. The event can be a breakfast before people head out to the show, or a restaurant for lunch or supper. Organizers should arrange for an area of the restaurant or bar to be set aside for the meeting prior to the meeting. This is particularly important when arranging a connect meeting on a Friday when 20 + people could all arrive at a restaurant at 5pm!

There is no charge for the connect meeting. Full details about how to arrange a GWA Connect meeting are also on the GWA Resources and Archives web page.

Meet the Author

image KateKate grew up in England, where vegetables were always part of the garden. Kate was the first host of the popular America’s Home Grown Veggie Show and continued as host for over 6 years with the program. She was a national board member for The Herb Society of America, and is currently on the board of GWA. As a writer Kate has written for local, regional and international newspapers as well as a variety of magazines.  She authored two books: – The Downsized Vegetable Garden (St Lynn’s Press); New York & New Jersey Month By Month Gardening (Cool Springs Press). Kate also enjoys giving presentations to the public and has always been a popular regional speaker wherever she has lived. Her talks range from basic gardening to herbs and vegetables, including growing vegetables in containers. Kate currently lives in South Carolina.

Author: GardenComm

GardenComm, formerly known as GWA: the Association for Garden Communicators, provides leadership and opportunities for education, recognition, career development and a forum for diverse interactions for professionals in the field of gardening communication. GardenComm members includes book authors, bloggers, staff editors, syndicated columnists, free-lance writers, photographers, speakers, landscape designers, television and radio personalities, consultants, publishers, extension service agents and more. No other organization in the industry has as much contact with the buying public as GardenComm members.

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