Guidelines for Planning NARGS Meetings

STARTING OUT........................................... 1
POSITIONS of RESPONSIBILITY and VOLUNTEERS............. 2
PROGRAMS and SPEAKERS.................................. 4
AUDIO-VISUAL........................................... 8
BUDGET................................................ 10
HOTEL ROOMS AND SERVICES.............................. 12
TRANSPORTATION........................................ 21
PUBLICITY and BROCHURES............................... 22
REGISTRATION and RESPONSE PACKETS..................... 25
MEETING REGISTRATION and CONFERENCE PACKETS........... 27
SALES................................................. 29
PLANT SHOW............................................ 33
DISPLAYS, EXHIBITS.................................... 33
SIGNS................................................. 34
RAFFLE & AUCTION...................................... 35
FIELD TRIPS........................................... 36
GARDEN TOURS.......................................... 39
POST-MEETING FIELD TRIPS.............................. 40
NARGS FINANCIAL POLICIES, INSURANCE................... 40

STARTING OUT

Your chapter may be thinking about hosting a NARGS national meeting, either a Winter Study Weekend or an Annual General Meeting.  There are many reasons to do this: well-planned meetings can be a financial success, adding funds to the chapter's coffers; the process of planning a meeting can bring chapter members together in new ways, sharing ideas and goals in a camaraderie that is quite different from simply attending chapter meetings.  The planning period leading up to a meeting is a time of excitement, as well as responsibility, and NARGS will do all it can to help - beginning with the following guidelines, collated from many of the previous NARGS meetings.

To begin, hold a preliminary meeting, with a working committee comprised of chapter officers and a few experienced NARGS members. There may be some longtime members who are no longer able, or willing, to lead another meeting, but can contribute ideas and knowledge to the initial planning.

The type of meeting to be held will dictate the timing: The Annual General Meeting will depend on peak flowering or season of interest, in gardens or the wild. Try to avoid major national holidays (e.g.: Memorial Day, July 4, etc.), and work closely with the President when establishing the dates for the meeting.

Winter Study Weekend schedules have become fairly flexible lately and can be held anytime during January through March.  Since there can be both Eastern and Western Study Weekends in a given year, check with national to avoid conflicting dates.

Be aware of other local events, like large conventions, home sports games, etc., that might impinge on availability of hotel rooms, buses, and air flights.  On the other hand, an interesting local event, even one that is not plant-related, before or after the NARGS meeting, can act as a further draw to prospective attendees.

The initial working committee can either decide on the format and/or theme for the meeting, or leave that decision to the Program Chair. The number and kinds of services (raffles, sales, breakout sessions, shows, exhibits, etc.) will likely depend on the number of volunteers that can be recruited.  The first publicity and sales job will actually be within the host chapter itself, to raise the level of involvement and recruit volunteer help.

Subsequent planning meetings will take place in quick succession, as the outlines of the plans take shape. Later meetings can be called as needed, with committee contacts made chiefly by email.

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POSITIONS of RESPONSIBILITY and VOLUNTEERS

Ideally, every chapter member should be involved in some way, either before or during the meeting.  Volunteers can be recruited by the meeting Coordinator or the various committee Chairs.  Inducements, where necessary, can be in the form of reduced registration fees for those who take an active part in the work leading up to and/or during the meeting. There can be general calls for help, and opportunities for volunteering, and sign-up sheets, etc., but the most effective means of recruiting is by direct communication between Chair and prospective helper. The Chair can then define the jobs clearly, and answer questions.

After initial discussions, the working committee of the meeting should be comprised of the following Chairs (as appropriate to each meeting), under the general management of one (at most, two) leader(s):
Programs
Audio-Visual (do not combine with Programs)
Treasurer
Registration
Hotel negotiator
Hotel liaison
Transportation
Field trips
Garden visits
Pre- and/or post-conference trips
Sales
Displays, exhibits
Printing
Publicity
Raffles, door prizes, other giveaways
Master of Ceremonies
Introducers

Some of these jobs can be combined and handled by one person, others may be handled by a volunteer working under another committee chair. Every Chair, in addition to being responsible for particular jobs, should also be a driving force and cheerleader to keep the spirit of excitement and cooperation high through the long period of preparation.

The overall Coordinator of the meeting should be someone who is not only well-organized, but has attended a number of NARGS meetings. Prior meeting- or program-planning experience within NARGS or other organizations is a definite plus. The Coordinator, or Meeting Chair, should be able to delegate responsibilities and then maintain contact with all other Chairs to see that no detail is overlooked.  While it is important that the Chair not be a micro-manager, it is equally important that s/he have a good understanding of all the tasks that must be completed.

While every member of the host chapter should take part in the planning or operation of the meeting, not every volunteer needs to be a chapter member.  Volunteers can be recruited from the entire NARGS membership as well as other organizations.  Thanks to email, people outside the chapter can be tapped for jobs such as soliciting donations for raffles, treasurer, even registrar.  Any registrant can be recruited to help before or during the meeting for set-up, raffle-selling, monitor, or any of the myriad of limited-but-important jobs that help a meeting run smoothly.  There is also a long precedent of non-local NARGS members acting as field guides.  And local wild/native plant  and hiking or botanical societies are also  good sources for field guides and knowledge of local sites.  These non-member volunteers can be a good source for new members as well.

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PROGRAMS and SPEAKERS

In planning the program, strive for a coherent theme relevant to gardening, and preferably one that is broad enough in scope to link all the lectures and workshops. A theme helps to determine the speakers and subjects for the meeting, and often convinces would-be registrants that, yes, this is a meeting worth attending.  Brain-storming sessions are fun and useful, and can be held with previous program Chairs, experienced growers, knowledgeable field botanists, and people with contacts in the wider horticultural community.

The theme for the meeting can be dictated by the local and regional flora (where the meeting consists mainly of field trips), plant cultivation (where the meeting will be based upon garden visits), or a concept (plant exploration or new methods of propagation).  Or, with well known speakers, the meeting can consist of a gathering of diversified experts, who will speak on their subjects without a unifying theme - in a "something for everyone" approach. Offer a good mix of hands-on workshops or other learning activities of broad interest. If some of these workshops can be done by people who also give lectures, so much the better; it adds to the practical bent and increases the cohesiveness of the meeting (not to mention: paying for fewer speakers). The program and formats need to be settled fairly early, so that the hotel negotiator will know exactly what spaces and services will be needed.

NARGS meetings have followed roughly the same format over the years, but feel free to make changes to attract new attendees.  However, also understand that changes will be attractive only if they are perceived by old hands to be of equal or better value. Cutting back on lectures, trips, meals, or other events may make the price more attractive, but will not draw registrants if there is a perceived lessening of value-for-money.  A full schedule of interesting events and speakers will be the best attraction; but you need to also make sure that people do not feel rushed, vendors have ample opportunities to sell, and everyone has free time for socializing.  

For field-based Annual Meetings (wild or garden), at least two full days of trips are a minimum.  Winter Study Weekends generally have lectures beginning on the Friday evening and running until noon on Sunday.  Simultaneous break-out sessions on the Saturday (one or two such sessions) can add variety to the program and appeal to more prospective attendees.  As an alternative, one of the break-out sessions may simply be time to explore the surroundings (in the case of field-based hotels), shop the sales rooms, an expanded social hour, or the sharing of attendees' own photos.

Topics for lectures are as varied as the lecturers.  However, everyone seems to have strong dislikes, whether the "single genus" lecture, travelogs, or home gardens.  Be sure to have a variety of formats, even when using a common theme, to entice and engage as much of an audience as possible.  Controversial viewpoints (in botany, systematics, or horticulture) can shake people up and get them talking.

In choosing speakers, reach for the experts in each field. Recognizable names (local, national, or international), with firm reputations for speaking and impressive resumés will draw the crowds. Add new (but well-vetted) speakers for spice. And introduce a couple of your very best local experts, to save some travel costs.  Whatever the mix, it is important that the program be of the highest quality, and a qualitative jump over general chapter meetings. International speakers must naturally be fluent enough in English to get their information across, and interact comfortably with the audience.  A pleasant speaking style and voice will help keep the audience rapt.

Insert: BJW 12/12/17:  NARGS does not have a standard contract for engaging speakers for a NARGS event.  The current NARGS fee [2017] for speakers is $250  ($400, if giving two talks).  That is the fee NARGS chapters pays traveling speakers, both local and overseas.  Generally, local chapter speakers are not paid, but that is a decision the local hosting chapter can make. Regarding a contract, you should cover what your chapter’s expectations are for the lecture, including the speaker’s fee, agreement to pay other reasonable expenses for the speaker to get to your venue (air fare, train fare, mileage for traveling).  Also, the length of the talk (50 minutes, for example), expectations of a “slide list,” agreement to pay hotel accommodations or home hosting, and other items if you believe that needs to be put in writing or could be subject to disagreement.

Following discussions with prospective speakers, a contract should be drawn up and signed by the speakers and the Program Chair.  This should include all necessary items:
- Date and location of the meeting (and, if possible, the specific day/time of the presentation)
- Agreed-upon topic/title of the presentation
- Specific AV requirements (computer or slides, number of screens, type of microphone, laser pointer, podium, light); other props (tables, easels, etc.)
- Assistance (for demos)
- Honorarium (usually based upon the current NARGS Speakers Tour fees)
- Meals and transportation (before, during, after meeting)
- Other assistance (host home before/after meeting, ground transportation to and from the airport, etc.).

It is essential to be clear about what perquisites will or will not be covered, in order to avoid misunderstandings. Full or partial registration (e.g.: meals) may be extended to spouses and domestic partners of the speaker, depending on how much they plan to participate in the meeting (as opposed to shopping or golfing); the hotel room will obviously be shared.

For speakers traveling across time zones, allow at least one full day of recovery before their lectures. Ask local members to act as hosts, even if the speakers will be staying at the hotel, providing transportation from the airport and general help and companionship.  Such hosts may escort the speakers to local sights and open gardens during the extra day or two before the meeting.  This is especially important for an international visitor, or someone traveling alone.  A comfortable, rested, well-received speaker is more likely to give a superior presentation.

During the meeting, the Program Chair may or may not also act as Master of Ceremonies. Chairing the proceedings can be done in combination with another member, who is known to keep things moving without seeming controlling, with a light touch and humor. 

It is also interesting to have additional NARGS members act as Introducers, to make the introductions and closings/thanks for each speaker.  This is a good way to involve more members, as well as giving the emcee a rest and bring a new face and voice to the podium.  Choose someone with links to or, at least, good knowledge of the speaker, who can add some personal (colorful) touches to what can often be a dry, standard introduction.  The Introducer should also add a sentence or two at the conclusion of the speaker’s presentation, to thank the speaker and, if appropriate, ask for questions from the audience.  To make things easier for the speaker and audience, the introducer should (if possible) repeat the question so that it is clear to everyone in the room.  At the conclusion of the question period, the Introducer should lead the audience in another round of applause.  This closure is very important, so that the speaker leaves the stage feeling appreciated.

Where there are multiple simultaneous break-out sessions, an introducer could either be used in each room, or the speaker can introduce himself informally. However, there should be someone in every break-out room to assist the speaker, work the lights, move items for a demonstration, etc., in addition to the AV tech support. 

As important as it is for the speakers to feel well-received, it is equally important that they stay on schedule, in consideration of subsequent lectures, and to work smoothly with the hotel staff that is planning meals.  From the outset of discussions, the Program Chair should make clear to all speakers (through discussions and through contracts) the exact time allotted for their presentations, and whether that time will include a question-and-answer period.  During the presentations, it will be helpful to the speaker (and reassuring to the audience) if the Chair or Introducer quietly lets the speaker know that he has five (or ten) minutes remaining. Another reminder at one minute will allow the speaker to gracefully bring the lecture to a close. 

If the speaker seems disinclined or unable (as occasionally happens) to conclude his remarks, the Introducer or Program Chair should be prepared to step in, with deference and charm, and say that the remainder of this (no doubt fascinating) presentation can continue at the conclusion of the program (perhaps in the after-hours session), so that the other speakers can give their presentations and/or the meal can be served on-time.

After-hours programs: these should be well planned, with participants signing up on the registration form, online anytime, or at the meeting registration desk.  Costs for AV equipment can be minimized by using the large lecture rooms from the evening program, or the next day’s breakout session for smaller groups.  For a large turn-out, either schedule a second room (budget permitting) or a second night (Friday and Saturday). Set a clear limit on time and/or number of images and have a chapter member on hand as host, tech-support, and time-keeper.

Other events to include in the program schedule:

- AdCom and Board meetings: these are held before the opening of the meeting, usually on the morning and afternoon of the registration day.  Occasionally, the AdCom has met on the evening before, with the Board meeting held the next morning, before the noon registration.  Whenever it is scheduled, the Board meeting must be finished before opening of sales rooms... or you will hear about it!

- Annual business meeting, consisting of a brief report by the president, summarizing the business accomplished during the year and the votes taken at the just-completed AdCom and Board meetings.  This should be done on one of the evenings (usually the banquet): after dinner, but preceding the lectures.

- Presentation of Awards includes the reading of a short summary of the reasons the award is being given to each recipient, with the recipient accepting (if present) but making no speech. This ceremony can be held on the same night as the business meeting, or another evening. If the annual meeting coincides with a Winter Study Weekend, the Awards may be presented at the luncheon.

To be certain that all information and schedules - programs, raffle times, NARGS business, housekeeping details (information about next day's trips, for example) - are covered, it may be a good idea to write an outline, or even a script

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AUDIO-VISUAL

Since computer presentations are the heart of our meetings, having the right equipment and knowledgeable technical support is all-important. A tech-savvy, experienced chapter member should head this committee and be available during all presentations.

At the outset, the AV Chair should work closely with the Program Chair, to determine the exact AV needs for each speaker and every lecture, workshop, and demonstration (this information should be included in the contracts with the speakers).  For break-out sessions, there will be multiple sites to consider.  For every event and room, list:
- size of the room and audience, and arrangement of chairs/tables;
- need for stage and/or podium;
- need for light source, for a speaker with written notes;
- number and type of microphones: mounted on the podium and removable, battery-operated wireless mike, or a combination of both (do not turn on both at the same time, in order to avoid painful feedback);
- pointers: plain or laser (Pointers and slide advancers are more common now as an app - so obviously have a backup slide advancer, and the smart phone is the responsibility of the speaker.);
- position of the projector(s): front, middle, or rear of the room;
- position of presenter: front, or with the projector;
- number of computer projectors and computers;
- required connection cords, USB or Apple connectors appropriate for your projector;
- number of tables for projectors;
- projection screen(s): number, size (pull-down screens are generally larger than portable ones), and placement;
- provide the ideal ratio of your projected screen size (PowerPoint now defaults to the format for flat screens, which are becoming the industry standard);
- Check if there will be audio and arrange for the proper equipment;
- any additional technical equipment that the presenters require.

Other items for the presentation: tables for demos or panel discussions, easels, etc., which will be negotiated with the hotel rather than the AV provider.  A slide list is helpful and preferred. Assign someone to print it or request the number of copies you need.

You will need all of this information when completing the Banquet Event Order (BEO) for the hotel/conference center.

Also consider having a preview room, with a set-up of computer and other equipment, so that the speakers can do last-minute run-throughs of their presentations and familiarize themselves with the equipment.

Speakers giving a digital presentation should submit a duplicate file of the presentation to the AV Chair well in advance of the meeting so that it can be saved and tested on the equipment to be used for the proper software version.  Advise speakers as to what software your chapter prefers (Keynote or PowerPoint) and the proper version.  Require the speaker to bring back-up file on an external device or a backup copy of the presentation.  Both MAC and PC equipment should be available.

An important part of the contract with the AV provider is the stipulation that someone from the company be present at all times during the presentations, with back-up equipment and technical support (you may wish to provide meals for that person, for good will).

Once the AV needs for every room, during the entire meeting have been ascertained, the AV Chair will contact the hotel’s in-house AV personnel and/or send out a request for bids on the contract. Choose an AV organization with a good price and a willingness to be supportive. Once the contract has been signed, stay in touch with the AV providers and let them know of any changes in required equipment or room set-ups.  Closer to the meeting time, contact the AV provider and go over the schedule and AV needs for a last check.

During the meetings, the AV Chair will work closely with the AV provider.  Extra help from chapter volunteers will also be necessary, for small but crucial jobs such as manning light switches (lately, a more complex system of programmed dimmers), adjusting focus, changing carousels, rescuing jammed slides (tweezers), or whatever needs doing.

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BUDGET

Depending on how early a treasurer for the meeting is recruited, either the Chair or the meeting Treasurer will establish a budget for the meeting.  As this will determine the registration fee, the budget needs to be completed and sent to the NARGS Treasurer for review at least 12 months before the date of the event. The Treasurer will provide detailed comments regarding the budget based on previous NARGS experiences. The Treasurer will check the budget mainly to be sure that all possible expense items have been included. Once the Treasurer approves the budget, NARGS will underwrite any losses incurred by the hosting chapter, provided the hosting chapter follows the budget. The Treasurer of the hosting chapter (or other person responsible for monitoring the study weekend or annual meeting budget) will contact the NARGS Treasurer as soon as possible should any unforeseen expenses arise that cannot be covered in the original budget. The NARGS Treasurer will work with the hosting chapter to resolve the budget problem.

(See Financial Policies, below)

There are many items to be included in this budget including per-person costs, such as meals, and larger overall costs to be divided among the registrants, such as speakers, field transportation, audio-visual, and general hotel costs (not including the sleeping rooms, which are never included in registration fees).

Not all of the following items will apply to every meeting and some costs are negotiable, but all possible costs should be considered:

Program: Speakers' honoraria (often based upon the current NARGS Speakers Tours fees), speakers' transportation (including ground transport to/from airports), speakers' hotel rooms and meals - before and during the meeting.

Audio-Visual services: usually a flat fee from provider. The chapter may be able to provide some of its own equipment and tech support.

Meals: Some may be optional, and not included in the registration fee, such as the first night's dinner, and breakfasts. Coffee breaks and reception (cocktail hour) hors d'oeuvres should be kept to basics, until the break-even point has been reached. Be sure to include box lunches for field trips, whether provided by the hotel or an outside source. State and local taxes, gratuities, and other fees will add a good 25% to the base prices given by hotel, and must be included when calculating meal costs.

Insurance: Special event insurance is required to provide general liability coverage for NARGS and the or the period of the event.  Coordinate with the NARGS Treasurer to obtain coverage.

Miscellaneous items: Telephone; printing (registration flyers and brochures, meeting programs, plant lists, signage within hotel, buses); attendees' name badges (more expensive than you think); meal tickets; mailings; tables (provided by hotel, at a cost); table centerpieces, giveaways (in registration bags, at dinner tables); meeting room rentals; bartenders and ticket sellers (cocktail hours); raffle tickets; plant inspectors; credit card charges (currently 2.5%); easels and signs. Some of these costs may eventually be covered by donations in kind, but that fact may not be known until after the budget - and registration fee - is fixed.

Field trips: Transportation (buses, vans, chase cars); box lunches (include lunch for all drivers, bus captains, guides); national park, botanic garden, or other entrance fees; fuel surcharge; first-aid kits; bus signs; extra supplies of water/juice, snacks, plant lists; guide identification (bandanas, badges); possible guide payments (or reduced registration fees).

Be aware that the chapter is required to collect a surcharge equal to the current US/Canada Regular Membership fee for non-NARGS members, but only for the Annual General Meeting; Winter Study Weekends are exempt from this additional fee.

With the recent decline in meeting attendance, break-even points are being set at  lower levels. Consult with the NARGS Treasurer for recent attendance history, and decide on a realistic projection for number of attendees. Using this number as the break-even point will yield a reasonable registration fee. Using a lower attendance number will yield a slightly higher fee, but the break-even point will be reached sooner, allowing a possible upgrading of some items, such as expanded coffee breaks or reception hors d'oeuvres, wine with dinner, more giveaways, etc.

The working committee must make a decision on what to expect from chapter members and key workers in terms of meeting registration.  Some host chapters expect that workers will pay full registration, others offer a break in registration fees.

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HOTEL ROOMS AND SERVICES

Contracting with a venue for the meeting is of paramount importance and should be one of the first things completed.  Venues can be as varied as a full-service hotel, conference center (with integrated or nearby housing), motel, inn, etc., depending on the format and needs of the meeting.

Winter Study Weekends (WSW) will be held almost entirely on site, so services must be of a broad range. Catering and Audio-Visual (AV) are especially important.  The venue should be easily accessible by public transportation - especially when considering the vagaries of winter travel. With the exception of a summer meeting held in the mountains, the venue should also be accessible to alternative goods and services, and not placed in a remote location, like an industrial park.  Rooms must be clean and comfortable, at a minimum, with in-room wifi and coffee-makers a plus.  Elevators must be numerous enough to accommodate the size of the expected crowd. While registrants do not come to the meetings for the food (as we often have to remind ourselves), tasty meals do enhance everything else.

Annual General Meetings (AGM) feature or incorporate field trips, so less time is spent on site.  These spring/summer meetings should be at a hotel as close to the field areas as possible, or centrally located in terms of the gardens to be visited. Travel time on the buses should be minimized for the sake of economy, as well as the boredom of participants. Transportation to the hotel from airports and trains is a consideration, and free and frequent airport shuttles are helpful.  Other things being equal, a venue on the mountain is preferable to a standard hotel in a city, since that adds a great deal to the ambiance, and gives participants something to do when lectures/trips are not scheduled – or as an alternative break-out session (which can save costs on programming).

The hotel negotiator should be someone who has prior experience and skills in dealing and negotiating with hotels.  This need not be the same person who will later be the liaison with the hotel.  In fact, there is a case to be made that the negotiator can drive a harder bargain if s/he does not need to worry about continuing contact with the hotel.

Ideally, initial contacts with prospective hotels should be made two-to-three years in advance. The best way to clarify the planners’ thinking about the needs of the meeting and to communicate those requirements to prospective venues is to write a Request for Proposal (RFP), as follows:

A cover letter, introducing NARGS and the chapter should give generalities about the type of meeting to be held and include all contact information (name and title of the chapter contact person, address, email, phone, fax).

A clear timetable should be given:

- the exact date by which the hotel's response is required (including preferred format: email, phone, written);

- when chapter representatives plan to visit; 

- when the choice of hotel is expected to be made.

Briefly outline the aim of the meeting, and how many yearly meetings NARGS has held and for how many years.  Give specific dates of the planned meeting, possibly with alternative(s), in case there might be a lower-cost return proposal for a different date. Estimate the expected attendance, based on recent NARGS history for this type of meeting.

The first consideration is the size of the hotel and its accommodations.

Sleeping rooms:
         - single or double-bedded rooms:
            many attendees like to share rooms to reduce their costs;
            business hotels often have mostly single-bedded rooms;
         - king-, queen-, double-sized beds (how many rooms of each);
         - room rate, either per-room or per-person;
         - preferred rate, or range of rates; extend negotiated rate on both sides of meeting dates, for early arrivals or late-stayers (both of which will help to meet the room quota);

         - room amenities: wifi, coffee-maker, safe; handicap-accessible.

The RFP is further based on the programs and other events that are planned, and should outline the specific requirements for:
- Meeting rooms: plenary, break-out, storage, AdCom/Board, display
         (and how many need to be securely locked);
- AV capabilities: specifics for each room and time (if to be provided by hotel, as opposed to outside vendor);
- Meals: breakfast, coffee breaks, on-site lunch, takeaway box lunch,
         cocktails (pay bar), hors d'oeuvres, dinner 
         Formats: buffet, served, butlered
- Parking accommodations
- Transportation to hotel from airports, bus/train stations
Inquire about:
- Age of hotel, most recent renovation, planned renovations
         (which can either enhance or interfere with meeting);
- Other meetings that will be held at the hotel around those dates, and their     expected attendance;
- Length of service of current management and/or ownership;
- Contacts for 3 other organizations of your size who have held meetings at the hotel in recent years.

The RFP can be sent to as many hotels as seems appropriate, but not all hotels contacted will be interested in submitting a proposal.  Of the responders, at least 3 should be visited before making a final choice.  The hotels’ sales staffs should be willing to spend ample time with the chapter representatives, answering questions, conducting tours of meeting and sleeping rooms, and inviting them to a sample meal (at the time of the visit, or at a future date).  Check the type of basic rooms that NARGS attendees will actually be using, not top-of-the-line rooms and suites that the hotel would like you to see (and use).

The negotiated price for sleeping rooms should be available for a few days before and after the meeting. This is one advantage to using a hotel in the mountains, where registrants will often check in a day or two early, in order to acclimate to the altitude, adding extra room nights to the tally.  There should be a sufficient number of two-bedded rooms, as many attendees share rooms to reduce their costs.

Hotels base their prices for meeting rooms on the amount of other hotel services that will be used and the “room nights:” that is, the number of sleeping rooms used by the participants over the length of the meeting. Use of the hotel’s banquet services will generally offset the cost of rentals for the meeting rooms.  Additional needs include tables (many more than you realize) for the sales rooms and registration, possibly AV (if in-house is available), signage, easels, water/glasses at meetings and lectures, etc.  Prices for as many items as possible should be locked in at the time of the contract-signing, or with caps to the percent of increase.  Some costs are fixed and non-negotiable, like service charges and taxes, but others are open to negotiation, and a chapter representative should work with the hotel to achieve the most attractive and affordable overall package.  It should be understood that the hotel will need to make its profits somewhere, so that driving down the room costs too low will only result in other charges being raised or added.

For meetings involving all-day field trips, remind the hotel during negotiations that the meeting rooms will be available during the day, for rental to other groups.

Try to include all foreseen needs during the negotiations, as later additions and changes will likely come at a higher cost.

When negotiating specific items, formulate a specific plan with alternative approaches. Be organized, and do not bargain for the sake of bargaining. Have a good, solid rationale for your counterproposal, backed by statistics whenever possible. Be honest and do not distort facts. Be respectful and pleasant, but be firm. If you, as negotiator, are armed with good data and a reasonable, logical approach, you will be more effective in your negotiations.

A standard perq given by all hotels is extra sleeping rooms or suites (“comped”) per  number of rooms booked by registrants.  Basic minimum is one comped room for each 50 booked room nights, but this can be open to negotiation, depending on the economic climate.  Room rates can be per-person, or the same for single and double occupancy.  Make certain that all registrants’ rooms are counted toward the total, whether the reservations were made through the hotel or a third-party online service. The hotel can provide a list of all people with reservations, and this should be checked against the meeting registrar’s list.  The number of comped rooms should be based on the total number of nights booked for the entire meeting (including nights before and after the conference), not on a per-night basis, as this will change through the length of the meeting.  Parking rates can be another negotiable item.

Lecture rooms should have adequate sight lines, including a ceiling high enough to accommodate a large projection screen (no lower than 13 feet).

In planning meeting room needs, remember that a room will be needed on the first day, for the Administrative Committee in the morning and the Board meeting in the afternoon.

Attrition clauses: Most hotels will require that the booking group guarantee a minimum number of rooms to be booked and a minimum amount to be spent on meals. The room number is negotiated up front, and the meeting must usually meet at least 80% of that number of rooms, paying for the number that were not booked.  However, the penalty can only be incurred if the hotel has not otherwise filled all its rooms.  So have someone independently check (by calling and inquiring about room availability) to see whether the house has been filled.  This needs to be done on each evening of the meeting, since the hotel may fill one night and not the other(s).

If, close to opening day of the meeting, it is obvious that the room quota will not be met, book one or more rooms and use them for Hospitality suites - either as a place of respite for the speakers, or for use of the attendees in general.  The rooms will have to be paid for under the attrition clause, so the meeting may as well enjoy their use.

Typically, the hotel will place a number of rooms on hold for NARGS registrants, with a cut-off date.  This is different from the guaranteed contracted minimum.  After the deadline, unsold rooms will be returned to the hotel’s pool and late registrants will simply have to take their chances that the hotel will not be fully booked.

Registrants should be encouraged to stay at the meeting hotel; it enhances their own feelings of participation and camaraderie. This also adds to the revenues for the meeting which, once the minimum number of registrations and reservations have been met, can be turned back into extra lagniappes for the attendees themselves.  In this regard, the mountain/woodland venue offers an advantage to the meeting planners, as there will be no less expensive hotels nearby to lure registrants away.

Guaranteed minimum banquet expenditures will be met by the registrants’ meals and coffee breaks. Failing an adequate registration to cover these food costs, the group is still responsible for the whole sum.  However, since the money will still have to be paid to the hotel, the remaining amount due should be spent on additional perqs for the meeting-goers: expanded food offerings at meals, coffee breaks, and cocktail hours, or wine with dinner.

Take into consideration any costs for drayage and storage facilities. Find out what it will cost to move materials into and within the hotel (especially for plant sales), whether the hotel will accept materials that are sent ahead of the meeting (books, raffle donations, etc.), and whether secure storage for items not in use will incur charges (a good possible use for those extra booked rooms).

Negotiate credit and payment policies. Never settle for a contract that requires you to pay on-site at the close of the meeting; you will be too distracted to go through the master account with the necessary concentration. In the contract, give yourself at least two weeks to pay so that you will have time to review the master account carefully and in complete item-by-item detail.

When negotiations have been completed and a contract covering all possible items is offered by the hotel, have it read carefully by more than one person, to be sure that every Chair will have his needs met, and all verbal agreements have been recorded.  Additionally, have the contract checked by a lawyer (hopefully, a NARGS member or spouse to do it gratis). 

In the interim between signing and the meeting, the hotel may be sold or change chain brands, and it is wise to be sure that the new owners will honor all the terms of the original contract.  Major renovations may take place during this period, and it is important that these changes in configurations do not negatively affect your meeting spaces and/or accommodations.

After the contract signing, stay in touch with the hotel and the various managers.  This will keep the relationship friendly and informal, and will also keep the chapter apprised of any changes in staff personnel, which occurs on a fairly regular basis in the industry.  A clear line of communication between the meeting liaison and the hotel staff is necessary, and everyone involved (including chairs and workers) should know that all requests to the hotel (for services, items) must go through this person.

Hotel services, in general:

Before and during the meeting, the conference Chair should have contact information for all the heads of the hotel departments, and be able to reach them – or a delegated substitute – at all times. Since staff does not work seven-day weeks, a well-run hotel will give the conference Chair the schedule of staff workers during the meeting, and their cell phone numbers.  On the other hand, it should be made clear to the chapter  volunteers that only the Chair (or a designee) can make requests from the hotel, as some requests will be outside the contract and incur additional costs to the chapter.

Banquet Services

Meals will be arranged with the Catering/Banquet Manager.  The hotel will provide a sample list of available meals, snacks, hors d’oeuvres, beverages, etc. with prices that are current, but not necessarily guaranteed for the time of the future meeting. Firm prices will be offered a year (or less) in advance of the meeting dates. Because meal costs must be estimated very early in the planning, in order to prepare the budget and set registration fees, it is often possible to decide on a cost for each meal and have the chef prepare menus that meet this budget. To estimate costs at the time of the meeting, use current prices as the base and build in at least a 10% per year increase.  The contract could also stipulate that meeting costs will be no higher than X-percent over current prices.

Hotels will accommodate a fairly wide range of special dietary needs with advance notice: diabetic, gluten-free, vegetarian to vegan, nut-free, etc.  The vegetarian meals should not simply be the regular meal without the meat, but include a substantial protein substitute. Some way to identify those needing special meals must be agreed upon with the banquet manager. A choice of entrées for dinners is often offered, and these could be included on the registration form.

Buffet vs. served meals: Each has advantages and drawbacks.  Buffets can offer a wider variety of options for selective eaters (although some diners will take portions of everything). However, unless enough serving stations are provided, there can be a long wait time and some diners will finish before others have even begun.  This method works best with smaller groups and/or simpler meals (soup-salad-sandwich lunches).

Served meals are more formal – for the Saturday banquet, for instance – and diners are served as a group.  This is especially important where there is a tight schedule: before a full afternoon of break-out sessions, or an evening with the NARGS business meeting and/or awards in addition to the speaker(s).

Some meals may be optional, to bring down the costs of registration. In this case, the first night's dinner may be optional, to accommodate late-arriving registrants.  Breakfasts can be anything from Continental to a cooked buffet, but most people can manage with something in-between. This meal, too, can be optional, especially for a full breakfast; but see that a coffee/muffin bar is available somewhere in the hotel for those who cannot begin their day without caffeine.

Determine what may be supplied from outside.  Occasionally, hotels will allow the chapter to bring in extra touches that it cannot afford to purchase from the hotel: home-made cookies to accompany the hotel’s coffee/tea at registration; fruit/flowers in the speakers’ rooms, table centerpieces (the hotel may offer votive candles at no charge).

One requirement that is slightly unique to NARGS is early breakfasts, especially for an AGM with early departures for field trips. Six a.m. is not too early.  Even during Winter Study Weekends, hotels may not be prepared or equipped to handle two hundred breakfasters between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m.  Breakfast may be optional in the registration package, but many registrants will appreciate having a small continental breakfast available for a lesser fee, in the lobby or someplace convenient to the meeting rooms.

Not all meals will necessarily be taken at the hotel, especially for meetings with field trips.  Box lunches are a fixture of the field trips and may be part of the contract with the hotel, or purchased elsewhere. While a slightly better price for the box lunches might be available from other sources (local shops or organizations), be certain that the meeting will otherwise use the hotel’s catering services for enough meals to cover the free meeting rooms.

Closer to the time of the meeting, further forms - the Banquet and Event Order (BEO) - will be filled out by the chapter’s meeting or banquet Chair.  The BEO requires infinite details about every event (lectures, snacks, break-outs, meals, etc.) that will utilize the hotel’s facilities and services. Be prepared to consider the needs for timing, seating (number and style of set-up), AV specifics (if provided in-house), food and service, etc.  Inquire about receiving a sample page of the BEO early in your planning; it is very helpful in considering all details.  Hotels will provide guidance and help in preparing these documents; it’s in their interests, as well as yours, to see that everything is provided and runs smoothly.

A pre-conference meeting at the hotel, the day before registration begins, is often required by the hotel, and always helpful.  The hotel will bring representatives of each department (sales, front desk, banquet, AV, security) to this meeting, and the host chapter should send its major Chairs.  At this time, all scheduled events are reviewed, details refined, questions resolved.  This may be an appropriate time for a show of good will, offering the hotel managers a small NARGS- or meeting-related logo-ed gift.

Master Account:

This is the account of all goods and services provided to the meeting by the hotel.  Be sure to have only one (at most, two) person(s) who can authorize any expenditures.  Make this clear to the hotel and to all the chapter organizers and workers.  The hotel will certainly be used to this procedure; the workers may not.  The Master Account is, in effect, a running tab: it begins with the contracted items, but generally grows throughout the meeting as afterthoughts or new needs arise.  The hotel can provide a daily print-out of the Master Account - especially for longer meetings - and chapter representatives should inspect it every day.

Settling the Account:

The contract with the hotel should stipulate that final payment is not due for two (or more) weeks after the close of the meeting.  This will give the coordinator, hotel liaison, and treasurer time to carefully study the bill, which will be based on the Master Account.  This bill will itemize, for each event, all goods and services used by the meeting.  Be sure to ask questions for any items that look unfamiliar: hotels can make honest mistakes and will quickly rectify them.

Front Desk:

The front desk is the first point of contact between the hotel and meeting registrant, beginning with initial reservation and continuing through check-in. It is helpful to both sides for the chapter’s Registrar to have early contact with the managers of the front desk to inform them of your group’s arrival times, the negotiated room rate, room-block size, closing date, and any special needs.

To simplify the meeting registration process, all registrants should be required to make their own hotel reservations, either directly with the hotel, via its toll-free number, or online.  Meeting registrants may occasionally find better deals for the hotel through an online booking service (Expedia, Hotline, etc.).  There should be a written understanding with the hotel that all rooms reserved for the meeting - no matter how they were booked - will count toward the room-night tally.

It would be helpful to have a display board near the front desk to direct registrants to the meeting registration area.

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TRANSPORTATION

Where group tours or field trips are an integral part of the meeting, chartered buses play a large role in the success of the meeting. A firm contract should be negotiated more than a year in advance, so that these costs can be factored into the budget.  In order to deal with the bus company, clear plans are needed regarding the field trips: routes, mileage, timing, alternate access, alternate trips; number, size, and types of buses needed; and other variables.  In order to arrive at that information, field trip planners need to make trial runs, to establish best routes and length of time it takes to complete the trips. 

Bus rates are based on door-to-door costs: from the time they leave their garage until the time they return to the stable.  It is best to use a bus company that is as close to the venue as possible. Factor in the time needed for boarding the buses, at the hotel and in the field.  There are always laggards, forgotten items, misunderstood instructions and directions.  This can be compounded by multiple stops, as in garden tours. Buses can also get lost, especially on garden tours through city/suburban neighborhoods.  Although it may be the driver's fault, it will be the NARGS chapter that pays.  Be sure to have clear maps and directions; a GPS should be standard equipment.

Parking space and turnaround clearance for buses should all be checked beforehand. This information should be equally well understood by the bus drivers and the bus captains.

The contract should clearly state the date(s), price (including the cost of any unexpected overtime), responsibility for lunch for the driver, and where the bus will be waiting during field trips - which should be as near to the field site as possible, in the event of evacuation, due to weather or other problems. The bus company should be requested or required to list NARGS as an "additional insured" on its own liability insurance.  Any additional afterthoughts, not included in the contract, should be set down in a letter to the company, with an initialed copy returned to the chapter and kept in its files.  Payment is generally in the form of a deposit to accompany the signed contract (to hold the price, dates, and buses), with the balance due shortly before the tours.  Determine whether the costs are firm, or whether a fuel surcharge might be added sometime in the interim. It's doubtful that the price would be adjusted downward in the event of lowered gas prices, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

In determining the number of buses needed, figure that the average bus holds between 44 and 48 people.  Extra seats will be needed for guides and the bus captain, and possibly trash bags, gear, reference books, etc.  It is important to concentrate on the optimum number of registrants to use the buses fully. Think about cutting off registration once buses are full, as the costs of an additional bus will not be covered by the few additional registrations. If a few more registrants beg for inclusion, look to local volunteers to drive them in cars/vans.  And be sure to let those late registrants know that they will not be traveling with the group, though they will certainly join them at the garden/natural sites.

If possible, charter buses with toilet facilities and air conditioning.  Do not count on finding facilities at the trailhead (or even along garden tours, except for emergency stops at gas stations).  Every bus should have at least one chase car, to ferry any passengers who cannot continue on the trip. Bus captains and chase cars should have cell phones, and stay in touch.  During trial runs, check cell phone reception (minimal in remote field sites and, occasionally, gardens in rural areas) for all areas covered by the trips.

The buses themselves should be equipped by the host chapter with maps, details of the itinerary, routing (including possible alternatives), and parking areas.  The bus captain and guides should all be familiar with this information.  In addition, upon boarding at the hotel, there should be a first aid kit, box lunches, snacks, water and other drinks, extra copies of the plant lists (participants will lose/forget theirs), reference books and field guides.  A copy of the contract might be helpful.

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PUBLICITY and BROCHURES

There are two types to be considered: print and electronic.

Print material: Printing can be done in-house by a chapter member or by a commercial company.  In either case, it is important that the text, graphics, and layout look clear, professional, and well-executed. Expectations are now higher, and non-profits and plant groups can no longer expect to get by with poorly-designed and amateurish efforts; we are competing with all other events for the same discretionary funds.  Where possible, use chapter (or other NARGS) members who are talented and skilled in graphics to help in the design and layout of the several pieces that will be necessary: advance flyers (distributed at a NARGS meeting one year earlier), registration brochure (paper and electronic formats), meeting booklet/program, plant lists.  The more work that can be done by the chapter in preparing and refining the work before it is turned over to professional hands, the less expensive the final costs of preparing and printing.

Gather as much information about the meeting as possible from all committees: programs, field trips, catering, sales, pre- and post-meeting activities. Refine this mass of information down to the most essential, in order not to overload the brochure.  The web pages for the meeting can host all the remaining information - with colorful images, as well, taken on the reconnoitering trips in the fields and gardens, or sneak previews from the speakers' presentations.

Registration forms – both printed and online – should contain clear information about the activities: lectures, speakers and/or trips, vendors, plant shows, auctions, hotel information and links; equally clear should be the schedule and the timing of events. Include any essentials that will both attract registrants and help them plan their trip. 

Establish a date for the close of registration, and make it clear as to whether that will be the date sent (postmarked) or received.

If you are hoping to attract overseas participants, be sure to send out this information (or post it on the web) at least a year prior to the meeting.  Overseas vacationers need to plan a visit to the US much further in advance.

The publicity pieces that you design will be used in two ways: incorporated into the "Rock Garden Quarterly" and distributed separately. The "Quarterly" is the best way to reach all NARGS national members, here and abroad. The deadlines for the four issues are the First of February, May, August, and November. Anyone wanting to submit meeting publicity must contact the Editor before having the pages prepared, because there are certain limitations on what can be handled in terms of file types, and you must be specific about the exact size when sending pdf files. Also, there are certain kinds of graphics that do not reproduce well. The Editor can also give advice on how to lay out the information pages and the tear-out registration form.

In addition to the publicity, the "Quarterly" will accept an article featuring the meeting's programs and field trips. Writing about the highlights of the local flora and/or the speakers and topics to be presented is a great way to garner interest in the meeting.  In addition, the new "Quarterly" is lavishly illustrated, so that photos of field sites and flora can be included.

You will also want to send several print copies of the brochure to each chapter, for display at local meetings, in order to reach those chapter members who do not belong to National. (Non-NARGS members are welcome to attend national meetings. The chapter is required to collect an additional fee equal to the current US/Canada Regular Membership fee for non-members attending the AGM, but it is not required for Winter Study Weekends.)  The Executive Secretary will also need a supply, to send with new member packets and for the inevitable number who lose theirs.

To find a professional design/print company, check references from other chapters, examine the results from other events, and get quotes on your brochures and other print materials from multiple sources.  Consider not only the cost, but the company's reputation and track record for reliability. The work will be done on a tight deadline, especially for the meeting booklet which contains programs, slide lists, and registrants' information that can change up till the last minute.  To get their best price, let the printers know that they could be used for multiple jobs: flyers, registration brochures, meeting program book.  Give an estimate of how many of each item will be needed. Do not hesitate to play one company against another: If your preferred printer does not offer the lowest price, take the lowest bid to him and ask whether he can meet it, or offer other services in compensation.

Then, work with the printer closely, giving him a final count for numbers as soon as possible, especially if a special paper stock is requested.  Get a clear schedule from the printer, so that your copy arrives on time. Be sensitive to the printer's own time constraints; all of his customers consider their printing jobs to be as important and urgent as you do.

Electronic:  The NARGS website can be used by the host chapter to publicize the event.  Costs for programming the website will be borne by the host chapter.  It is suggested to use an event hosting website for registration and payment and merely link to the NARGS publicity pages.  The meet webpage linked to the NARGS website will be as key to drawing in participants as anything else.   It is here that you can offer the maximum information and details  - while still keeping it well designed and concise - along with images of the field trips, gardens (taken during advanced planning trips), links to the speakers' and vendors' own websites, other local event of interest, and links to the hotel's site for information and reservations.  Closer to the meeting time, daily schedules, menus, and other details can be added to the website.  Schedules are important to the registrants, and should be posted (if only in rough outline) as soon as possible, to help them plan their travel.

Spread the word: Contact other area/regional organizations with like interests: botanical groups and institutions, local chapters of specialty plant groups, wild/native plant societies, garden clubs, arboreta, nurseries, horticulture schools, etc.  Invite their members to participate in the meeting.  To encourage these potential new members, the meeting planners may wish to offer a day-only package for field trips, covering just the cost of the trips and lunch (without hotel meals, activities). These organizations can be found on the web, and the information on their own website should be used to draft a letter sent directly to the contact person, with the name of the organization embedded in the message.  Impersonal blast emails are generally disregarded as spam, if they even make it through the mail filters. NARGS members may also give talks to local garden clubs and other societies that share common interests to entice their members to attend. If people are on the fence about attending or have questions, this direct contact can be very helpful. Local radio and community-access TV stations can be used to spread the word.

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REGISTRATION and RESPONSE 

The meeting's Registrar may be the first person with whom a prospective registrant has contact.  If someone is contacting the Registrar, it is because there are questions about the meeting, so the Registrar must be knowledgeable about every aspect of the meeting (programs, field trips, gardens, menus, hotel, transportation, etc.) and be patient and willing to deal with questions that might seem to have obvious answers (why didn't s/he read the brochure?!), or might be difficult to resolve.

Keeping track of registrations and relevant information is of utmost importance, and a spreadsheet is probably the best way to assemble the information reliably and succinctly.  Key elements are the name and all contact information (including email), field trip choices (in order of preference, if there are size limits to the groups), meal options (when all meals are not included in registration fee), meal preferences (if options exist), food requirements (allergies, life-style), break-out program choices (in order of preference), membership status (when non-member fees apply), amount paid (if it varies based on options), plus any additional information pertinent to the meeting.

Resign yourself to the fact that there will be mistakes and misunderstandings - on both sides. Careful, current records can help smooth glitches, as can patience and apologies (warranted or not). This is a job for someone with the mind of an accountant and the heart of a social worker.

The date for the close of registration should be clearly posted on all print and electronic pages and, to be fair, should be based upon the date the registration was sent (postmark or email date).  Immediate confirmation will reassure the registrant  that the form has been received.  Penalties for registration after a specified date (but before the close of registration) can be set, to encourage early responses.

There will be cancelations, as well as requests for partial registrations: establish policies well ahead of time for dealing with both.  For the first, set up a schedule for refunds, with criteria to be met and percentage returned (based on date of request). Special allowances may be made, on a case-by-case basis, for medical reasons (especially with a population this age). 

Partial registrations can either be pitfalls or opportunities to divide the meeting's costs over a wider number.  Decide well in advance who will be eligible: conference workers, chapter members, registrants in general, attendees' partners, vendors, interested local non-members. It will be necessary to consult the budget and work closely with the treasurer, to determine all the many variables included in the real costs for different portions of the meeting (meals, trips, speakers). A small “tax” may be added to partial registrations, beyond covering the basic costs.

The response to all registrations should be a suite of useful information, in print or electronic form.  In addition to notices regarding the meeting itself, there should also be a hotel brochure (or link), transportation information, and items and events of local interest around the hotel area.  Work with the local Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Board.  Expanding the number of area attractions enhances the meeting itself as a draw, and as value for the (often limited) vacation budget. A list of vendors is always of great interest to attendees.

For meetings with plant sales, clear information should be supplied for Canadian/overseas attendees who wish to carry/ship plants home. A brief run-down of the process and costs of obtaining a phytosanitary certificate at the end of the meeting will be helpful. This can be a supplement, sent only to registrants outside the U.S.

Planners who wish to set up this inspection/certification service should contact their local state agricultural experiment station or their USDA-APHIS state plant health director some months in advance, to schedule either a state or federal inspector to come and inspect plants for export and write a phyto. The inspector will need a clean, well-lit area in which to work, and access to the internet.  Those who will be exporting the plants need to clean the plants' roots of all soil before the inspection.  Work with the hotel to designate a wash station for the plants, so that bathroom facilities are not clogged with dirt.  Registrants planning to export plants will also need to learn their own countries' import regulations, and whether they will need a permit to import plants and/or seeds. For further questions, contact the NARGS government liaison.

This informational packet is also the place to state requirements for clothing and/or other hiking safety items (especially footwear, rain gear) that should be brought to the meeting, along with advice and suggestions for high-altitude hiking comfort.

Information about gardens that will be open before and/or after the main meeting should also be sent at this time - to make the meeting more attractive and to aide planning by the registrants.

Approaching the deadline date for registration, there may be fewer registrants than needed to break even, in which case consider dropping the late fee (if one had been established), sending further reminders online to listservs, NARGS chapters (Chairs and newsletter editors), and local organizations.

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MEETING REGISTRATION and CONFERENCE PACKETS

Registration offers the first impression that the registrant has of the meeting and its organization, so it is important that the registration area be well-marked, brightly lit, as attractive as possible, and the registration process smooth.  The tables and general set-up should be in place well ahead of schedule, for those arriving early at the meeting. There should be sufficient volunteers manning the registration tables, and they should all be well-briefed and knowledgeable about all aspects of the meeting.  It would be wise to have a laptop with the registration spread sheet, or a print-out, at the Registration table, to resolve questions or make changes.

There are varying views about whether or not to identify first-time registrants or new NARGS members.  Some feel that it's a courtesy, making them feel welcome; others think it's an imposition on privacy. There can be an additional welcome gift of a plant or booklet.  Some meeting hosts may also wish to identify Life Members with a special name badge.  The NARGS Executive Secretary can supply the list of Life Members, and then it is up to the planners to decide how to differentiate these attendees.

All materials for each registrant should be gathered into a convenient holder: a bag or a sturdy folder or envelope (possibly with a NARGS or meeting logo).  Name tags for the registrants are necessary, and can be useful in a number of ways. The face of the tag should have the registrant’s name in large, clear, bold print; calligraphy looks lovely, but is not easily read. Adding the hometown and/or chapter is a good conversation-starter.  In addition, it is wise to have a symbol for the field group of the registrant, which will help bus captains sort out who belongs on which bus, and aide field guides in keeping track of their groups. Top-opening tag-holders can be used to hold meal and raffle tickets.  Some find that badges on over-the-head strings are preferable to pin or clip badges; however, badges on strings do whip around in mountain winds on field trips.  Extra identification – either attached to the badge or elsewhere – is very useful to identify members of the conference steering committee and others who will answer conference-related questions, speakers, guides, vendors.  Colored tags and bandanas are particularly bright and noticeable – and inexpensive from online sources.

The primary document in the Registration packet is the Program booklet.  This is printed very close to the beginning of the meeting (within a week or two) and typically includes daily schedules in detail, a map of the hotel, the speakers' biographies and slide lists, names and contact information for the vendors, acknowledgement of raffle prize donors, and a list of attendees.

All events and participants should be listed: lectures and lecturers, break-out sessions, social hours and meals, a description of immediate surroundings of the hotel (whether in town or in the field), services available in the hotel or nearby, and possibly some botanical or whimsical artwork as page fillers.

This is also the place to give credit to the many people who have worked on the meeting.  Since all work is done by volunteers, public recognition of their help is the only compensation for the many hours devoted to the meeting.  This printed thank-you can be augmented by a warm expression of thanks at one of the gatherings for a meal or lecture.  But, rather than a long roll call of names, the few prime movers can be acknowledged singly and all the volunteers asked to stand for a round of applause.

Plant lists and maps for all field sites should be included in the conference packet, so that registrants can save the ones for sites not visited at the meeting for future personal visits. The plant lists should be in a format that is easily portable and printed on sturdier paper. For post-conference local gardens, the dates and times they will be open for visitors should be clearly stated; maps and directions should be geared to the out-of-town traveler with no knowledge of local roads. 

If there are giveaway items (hats, pens, notepads, sunscreen, seed packets) these, too, are included in the packet.  The registration table is also the best spot for those other informational items that may be of interest to only some registrants: brochures for local places and events of interest (although some of these may have also been included with the initial response to registration) from the local tourist board or chamber of commerce; maps, catalogs from local and/or mail-order nurseries (which will all be gobbled up; everyone loves to read catalogs), or free samples.

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SALES

Sales merchandise should be diverse and planned to appeal to a wide range of interests and budgets. Plants, and books (new and/or used), should be represented, along with Seeds, Art, Crafts, Tools, Containers (including Troughs), Garden ornaments, and Rocks (e.g., tufa). A local commodity, plant group, or other item that people cannot easily obtain elsewhere can be an interesting feature of the sales rooms.

There are two approaches to working with vendors: Either charging them a flat fee or a percentage of sales, or viewing the vendors as an extra attraction to the meeting and a service to NARGS members and asking no fee. The flat fee might simply be the amount charged by the hotel for the table. Percentages are difficult to calculate and awkward to enforce. Alternatively, vendors might be requested or required to donate an item for the raffle or auction (if either or both is being held).  Any fees or other requirements should be made very clear to the vendors at the time you are recruiting them.  Propagating and transporting plants - especially for winter meetings - is time-consuming, expensive, tiring... and not always profitable for the nursery.  Requiring vendors to register for the meeting is optional, although they can reasonably be expected to pay their share if they will attend the lectures, field trips, or meals.  They should not be expected to pay for their meals if the sales rooms will be open at any time during those meals.

Sales tables should be open as often as possible, but closed and secured when the programs are active.  This ensures that speakers are not in competition with the sales, and vendors who have registered have a chance to hear the programs.  All tables should be manned by vendors or their delegates during all designated sales periods (rooms should be locked at other times).

PLANTS are the raison d'etre for these meetings and an abiding passion of the attendees.  Plant sales benefit everyone by raising funds for the host chapter (receipts from chapter plant sales are generally not part of the equation when determining the chapter's donation to NARGS National) and the participating nurseries, as well as feeding the plant cravings of the registrants and raising the level of excitement. 

Plants can be produced by the chapter and/or brought in by local nurseries.  In either case, this should be decided well in advance, so that there will be proper time to plan, propagate, and grow sales-worthy plants.  Two years is not too long a lead time.  For plants grown by members, the chapter can either provide pots (bought wholesale) or ask members to consider all the materials (pot, medium, plant) as a donation to the effort.

When working with nurseries, all interests are best served by having a form of contract, or some written document detailing arrangements and expectations on both sides: fees (where applicable); number of tables (and any costs); times of sales; directions to the hotel; location of loading docks; arrangements for access to the sales room; set-up and break-down times, and whether there will be chapter members to assist before and/or during sales hours - a service that is always appreciated by vendors.  Follow-up reminders during the interim leading up to the meeting are a helpful way to insure that any further questions are resolved.

The hotel should be informed that there will be plants - with the possibility of some spilled dirt.  In turn, the hotel should assume the responsibility of covering the carpets, where necessary.  Requesting that a vacuum cleaner be on hand, and cleaning spills before they are ground into the carpet, would benefit relations with the hotel staff.  Ideally, there should be a source of water easily accessible.  Ask about the use of carts and flatbeds for moving multiple flats and plants to/from the sales room; if they are not available from the hotel, obtain some from local nurseries and friends.  Try to have the sales rooms on the entrance floor, to obviate waiting for elevators - or arrange for the use of freight elevators.

The sales tables may be skirted or not (this may or may not be an extra charge); vendors like to store extra stock under the tables. Supply rolls of plastic sheeting to cover the tables early on the first day, well before the vendors are due to arrive.

Shoppers will need flats/cartons for carrying their purchases.  Shallow cardboard boxes used to hold cans of soda are ideal and can be obtained free at local supermarkets. Local nurseries may be able/willing to provide - or at least sell - plastic plant flats to the chapter; they will be needed by the dozens.  A further service to those registrants taking plants  home on public transportation would be the provision (or sale) of cardboard cat carriers, which fit on planes and hold multiple rock garden-sized plants very neatly.  These can be purchased through veterinarians, animal shelters, and online.

Phytosanitary certificates for Canadian/overseas shoppers present an additional consideration.  To line up a local inspector, contact either the APHIS state plant health director: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/plants/plant_exports/ecs/index.shtml

... or your state agricultural experiment station for information about having either a federal or a state export certification specialist come to the hotel to issue phytosanitary certificates on the last day of the meeting.  If there is a problem, contact the NARGS Government Liaison for help in resolving questions.  Be sure that the registrants understand the current requirements for importing plants into their home countries, and whether import permits are needed.  To further clarify the issue, place signs on the tables of non-certifiable plants, such as those donated by diverse chapter members, that have not originated in a single certifiable nursery.

Plants will need to have their roots cleaned of all soil, so the hotel must be able to provide a place to carry out this procedure and pack the plants for shipping.  A large trash bin for shaking out loose soil and a work sink for washing off the remaining bits is best.  The chapter should provide a room or area that is well lit, with wifi, where the inspector can work comfortably.  Paper toweling for wrapping roots and plastic zip bags for packing can be offered or sold by the chapter.  Shipping material (boxes, tape) is usually provided by hotels, at a cost. Exporters must cover the costs of the phyto, but several people from the same country can purchase one phyto and ship all their plants together to one address, sharing the costs.  All information and requirements must be made clear before registrants come to the U.S. meeting, with suggestions of bringing their own packing material.  It is possible to facilitate and speed the process by obtaining the phyto application form ahead of time from the inspector and make copies that shoppers can fill out prior to the inspection.

BOOKS are almost as attractive to gardeners as plants - and can be shipped home with less fuss.  Having a variety of options for browsing and buying satisfies many needs.

In addition to local booksellers, carrying current editions of horticultural books, the host or another area chapter may have its own used-book store.  Used-book tables are always popular for out-of-print classics or recent books at more reasonable prices.  Alternatively, invite a local used-book store to sell at the meeting, explaining the types of specialty books needed (well beyond basic gardening books).

Book-signings for NARGS authors are a nice touch, and of benefit to both NARGS and the author.  A table and chair in a nicely lit, well-trafficked area will be necessary; and it might also be helpful to have a chapter member on hand to assist the author.

Local art societies can be involved in the sales or exhibits for the meeting.  Give them a horticultural theme and let them run with it.  You could offer judging (by popular vote or judges) and a prize, as well as the opportunity to showcase and sell their works.  Craft guilds and other groups whose works can be even loosely tied into plants, gardening, and garden ornaments (weavers, potters, metalworkers) could show and sell their wares.

Security: Sales and display rooms should always be locked when not in use.  Ideally, the lock should be re-keyed just for the meeting, and there is usually a charge for this.  One person (at most, two) should hold the key(s), but be easily reached by cell phones or pagers, with all vendors having this contact information.

In addition, chapter members should be assigned to wander through the sales rooms and keep an eye on the merchandise, which is mostly very portable.  This is often difficult in the frenzy of the early sales and the crowds, but it should be a consideration, as there have been occasional losses over the years.  Vendors should arrive with sufficient change and receipts, and secure storage for both.

Storage of extra stock: it may be possible to designate an adjoining room for the storage of giveaway plants, raffle items, extra stock for the vendors, boxes, etc.  This room should also be secured at all times, with information about the key-holder(s) made available to all vendors and relevant chapter members.

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PLANT SHOWS

If at all possible, schedule a Plant Show as part of the meeting's activities.  Plant shows not only educate the membership and enhance the surroundings, but they serve as conversational ice-breakers and ease the sharing of common interests between new and veteran members.  The Show becomes a focal point of the meeting, where members congregate between trips, lectures or plant shopping, and often draws in the hotel staff, who ask questions and become more involved with the success of the meeting.

Organizing a NARGS plant show is relatively easy, involving a minimum of time and volunteers. But the one requisite is plants, and they may be difficult to come by for winter meetings. Also, when the hosting chapter is very small, or the venue is isolated so that most of the attendees will arrive by public transportation, there may not be enough entries to justify a show.  However, it is always worth a try to announce the plans and schedule for a show and then, if the classes are not adequately filled,  simply turn it into an unjudged exhibit.

The plant show chair can consult with several experienced growers (within and without the chapter) when drafting the schedule.  There is also a document available, written by Michael Slater, which outlines all requirements and advice pertaining to Plant shows: Flower Shows

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DISPLAYS, EXHIBITS

These are not strictly necessary, but do add a great deal to the ambiance and the enjoyment of the attendees, and can also help carry out the theme of the meeting.  They are probably more useful at winter meetings, when registrants will have more time in the hotel to enjoy them. Displays can be as modest as a couple of planted troughs at the Registration table, or as extravagant as the incredible room-size alpine gardens that Jim Cross used to create, or the several planted tables that the DelVal chapter members exhibited at a WSW.  These can be done either by chapter members, local chapters of other specialty plant societies, nurserymen seeking to showcase their specialties (particularly enticing when their nurseries are open during or after the meeting).  Local arboreta, extension services, or horticulture schools can add an educational dimension.  Any display will likely enhance the festive atmosphere and offer the attendees more opportunities to relax, learn, and interact.

The displays can be gathered into one room, or be scattered throughout the meeting areas - although thought should be given to the issue of security.  Wherever they are, exhibits should be very well lit, for the sake of both the plants and their viewers.

The Chair of displays/exhibits should be aware of the hotel's facilities and the costs the chapter might incur for use of their tables, easels, rooms, etc. With a clear idea of the available possibilities, the Chair can then contact prospective exhibitors.  This should be done as far in advance as possible, to allow time for production of plants and/or photographs, scheduling, or just the maturing of ideas for the display.

Confirm details in writing, offering the exhibitors clear instructions on the scheduled times for set-up, break-down, and access to the display area(s), and any help that might be available to them from NARGS volunteers.  Keep in touch during the interim, to answer questions, or inform them of any changes in plans and, in general, act as a reminder of their commitment.  After the meeting, a warm thank-you to each exhibitor would be most appropriate for all their work.

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SIGNS

There must be good signage around the Hotel, especially on the first day, to direct  attendees to the various rooms and activities.  A map within the Program Booklet will be helpful, but signs will be their best guide to the Board meeting, lecture rooms (especially if there will be breakout sessions), sales rooms, late-night slide shows, etc.

Clearly visible, easily-read signs are important on the buses, as well, with identifying logos (colors, flowers) for each of the field groups.  After carefully balancing the groups, to be sure that all field sites are visited by all registrants, it is important to see that attendees board the right buses for their assigned group.  Any changes in group assignment should be managed by one person on the meeting staff.

A message board, near the registration table, is very helpful for people to post messages, sign up for car pools, etc.

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RAFFLE & AUCTION

Raffles and auctions are good ways to create extra buzz for the meeting and cash for the host chapter. They are also a useful way to get people into the meeting room on time for programs. Acquiring donations for the raffles, table giveaways, and registration bags is always a special challenge.  But gardeners tend to be generous people, and nurseries will find it is in their best interests to donate a gift certificate in order to publicize their wares and entice first-time users. Few people spend only the amount of the gift certificate.

The Chair for the raffle should be a go-getter, with good initiative and contacts in the larger horticulture community.  This Chair will be in charge of acquisitions: requesting items and gift certificates from nurseries (local and afar), authors, book stores, tool suppliers, garden centers, artists, crafters, even clothing stores with garden-appropriate clothes or accessories.  Raffle tickets must be ordered and volunteers recruited to hawk the tickets during the meeting.  Donated items should be divided evenly (in value) among the several raffling sessions, so that there are choice items available at every one.  These sessions can be held at the beginning of a lecture session or a meal - to induce people to seat themselves quickly.  However, do not spend too much time at each drawing session, which can become boring.  Have the tickets drawn and the numbers called in fairly rapid succession, pausing only to see whether the ticket-holder is present.  Items for each raffling session should be placed on display just prior to that time, with the remaining items stored in a secure place.

Auctions can be live or silent, or a combination of both.  Live auctions can - if handled skillfully - create excitement and involvement in the audience. Silent auctions allow for quiet perusal times and chatting, and the bidding wars that occasionally develop have their own tension and fun (to watch and to bid).  Acquiring items for the auction can tap into different sources from the raffle, going to members for a rare plant, an out-of-print book, or piece of botanical art.  In this context, "second-hand" adds luster and value with its provenance.

Space and tables must be arranged, whether the auction is live or silent.  For the silent auction, bid sheets should be printed with complete information about the item and its donor, and a clear closing time posted and enforced.

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FIELD TRIPS

Since field trips can be the crux of a meeting, extra care and time with planning is essential.  Members of the host chapter usually know the local botanizing sites well, so it remains to choose the best ones and learn the dates at which they are at their floral peak.  Several sites, with varying terrains and flora should be chosen, with alternatives as back-up, since peak blooming time can vary by weeks and mountain roads can disappear under slides or unseasonable snow. 

There will be widely varying degrees of fitness and physical capabilities among the registrants, and suitable field excursions should be chosen to meet all needs and challenges.  Estimating the conditions of the field sites and matching them to the condition of the participants will remain problematic, even during the trips themselves.  Physically fit hikers tend to underestimate the strenuousness of their hikes, and the least physically fit often overestimate their capabilities. The most difficult trips to plans are those that are labeled as “Easy.”  Registrants choosing this option are more likely to overestimate their physical strength and stamina, so that planners should take this into consideration, providing enough guides for that trip in case the group needs to be further divided for different levels of activity. 

Sites need to be accessible by bus or van, and within two hours driving distance (at most!).  Public access for large groups must be permitted, either generally or by special permission. A fee for national parks is often necessary and should be included in the budget.  Local stations of the Forest Service or other government agencies (BLM) can provide answers, access, and information (often including plant lists).

Mark attendees' name tags clearly with group identifiers, making it easier to keep track  of group members on buses, and when two groups intersect in the field.  Guides need to check as the attendees enter the bus, to keep the groups balanced and equitable. It should be made clear - at registration and during the meeting - that changes from one group to another need to be cleared by someone of authority, in order to keep track of participants - for their own safety. 

Load buses at the hotel only 15 minutes before departure, to avoid boredom and toxic fumes.  Make plans with bus drivers about where they will wait while the group is in the field, and establish a way to maintain contact, in case of a need for an early departure due to a sudden change in weather or other problems.

Guides are the key to successful field trips, both in the planning and execution. Running successful field trips requires the same effort as getting to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice.  Pre-meeting field trips, held around the same dates one and two years prior, will provide the basis for the plant list and acquaint new guides with the territory. Photos taken on these trips can provide great images for publicity.

Recruiting good guides will take time, effort, and often more than a little persuasion. There are also resources outside the host chapter: other chapters, native plant societies, arboreta, and park rangers.  These people may not know all the botanical names, but they do know local sites and plants. However, whenever possible, guides should use botanical names, as common names may be very local and meaningless to people from elsewhere.

The ratio of guides to group members varies with the group and the type of terrain, with so-called "easy" hikes needing surprisingly more guides, to help hikers who still cannot keep up with the group.  As a minimum, there should be a leader to find the path, with another bringing up the rear and keeping an eye on hikers who stray; however, both should continue to count heads throughout the trip.

Guides need to be fit, as well as knowledgeable, and maintain contact with the group at all times (there have been complaints of guides running ahead and leaving the group behind).  If one guide is used to scout ahead for choice plants and paths, then there must be at least two others that remain with the group.

The size of the groups should be as small as possible, so that all hikers will have access to a guide when needed. Patience is more than a virtue here, it's a practical necessity - especially with groups on hikes designated as "Easy."  There will be those who still cannot manage, and further division of the group might be necessary on the spot, with one group continuing at a lower altitude or slower pace. Be sure there are enough guides to cover both groups. Guides should wear something bright and clearly noticeable that identifies them as guides; bandanas are easily seen, come in a variety of colors for different hiking groups, and are inexpensively available online.

Safety on the trail begins with adequate advice before the meetings.  Inform all registrants, in the response package and again at the meeting, of basic requirements for field trips: adequate footwear, with good treads; layers of clothing; rain gear, as well as sun screen (weather is wildly variable on a mountain); water; and a day pack (small backpack) for carrying everything – plus the box lunch. While it is desirable to have everyone in the field fully prepared and equipped, the host chapter will have to decide how strictly to enforce the requirements.  Instead of turning away someone whose shoes seem inadequate for climbing rocks, it may be possible to ask them to change to a less strenuous hike.  The chapter should be prepared to supply items that may be forgotten: extra water, sunscreen, antacids (for altitude-induced reflux), bug repellent, plant lists.

At registration, participants can be asked to sign a pre-printed waiver that absolves the chapter and NARGS of liability. While this document may have few legal teeth, it does send the message that NARGS is serious about safety.

The bus captain is a guide with added duties: directing the morning loading of the bus, with attention to box lunches, drinks, trash bags, reference books, first aid kits; and monitoring the group at loading time upon each return to the bus. The bus captain should be familiar with the route to the field sites, along with possible alternative routes in case of traffic/road blocks. Bus drivers cannot be expected to make a dry run on their own time, so bus captains should do so in the days just prior to the meeting.

There should always be at least one, preferably two, chase car(s) riding with each bus to each of the sites. They will invariably be needed to shuttle someone back to the hotel or drive ahead to reconnoiter a changed route or a place to pull over and stop.  The drivers should be familiar with local roads and services, and remain in contact by cell phone with the bus captain, other drivers and, on garden tours, the garden owners.

The captain, or another guide, can offer occasional information en route about points of interest, but should not be too talkative on the bus; this is prime time for registrants' socializing on the way out and naps on the return trip (if you want them awake for the evening lectures). The NARGS and/or National Park policies on collecting (even seed) should be pointed out while en route. Bus captains are responsible, in effect, for a smooth and safe experience, and this responsibility should be handled by people who will treat it seriously.

Consider breaking up long drives with a scenic stop on the way out, and/or a snack on the way back (ice cream is a nice treat).

Box lunches should contain a protein-based sandwich or wrap, a condiment/salad (pasta, green, or grain), fresh fruit, dessert (cookie/muffin). Drinks (juice, water) can be supplied separately, in lightweight, re-closable containers.  Vegetarian lunches should be kept separate, in order to reserve them for those who requested them on their registration forms; extras can be on hand for non-vegetarians who simply prefer them to the meat sandwiches.

Plant identification: The Plant Lists (alphabetical or by families) should be either a separate booklet or list, or be easily removable from the meeting booklet.  Stress, in announcements during the meeting, that hikers should take these with them, but have extras available on the bus. Reference books, loupes on the bus would be helpful in keying out new plants.  Discussions about the plants seen on the hike - either on the return trip or during after-hours at the hotel - are useful for consolidating knowledge, expanding the plant lists, or for informing other groups about special sights or problems encountered.

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GARDEN AND OTHER TOURS

Garden visits can either be the whole theme of a meeting, one day out of two or three, or an added draw before and/or after the conference. Be open minded – tours can also be to nurseries, museums, and botanical gardens, some of which can be conducted in winter. For winter study weekends especially, smaller tours with car-pooling can work well.

Considerations and caveats are pretty much the same as for field trips, with the possibility of  added problems with city traffic and maneuvering and parking unwieldy buses in residential areas. Etiquette is also basically the same: stay on paths and no collecting!  Additionally, visitors should not expect entry to the home or its bathroom facilities; there should be a toilet on the bus.

For pre/post-meeting garden visits, limit the number of gardens available, so that all will have visitors, rewarding all the owners’ hard work in preparation.  Be sure that all gardens are ready and worthy of a visit. Cluster the gardens geographically and provide clear directions: from the hotel, from one garden to another, and back to the hotel. Accurate, objective descriptions – preferably not by the owner – listing style, age, outstanding collections, and specimens, will be helpful to visitors in planning which gardens to visit.

Directions need to be clear, concise, and above all accurate.  Give mileage counts between turns and do not depend solely on online resources to develop directions.  After the directions are written, conduct an independent test by having another person follow them.  An estimate of driving times is very helpful.

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POST-MEETING FIELD TRIPS

Although these trips are optional, they should be planned as carefully as the meeting trips themselves. Post-meeting trips can either be organized and run by the hosting chapter, using rented buses/vans; or they can be offered simply as packets of  information and maps for a drive-yourself outing.  This information should be as thoroughly prepared and clearly presented as though it were part of the main meeting.

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NARGS FINANCIAL SUPPORT and LIABILITY INSURANCE POLICY

 

There are several ways in which NARGS will support the chapter hosting a meeting, and there are a couple of responsibilities that the chapter has to NARGS.

Special event insurance may be required to provide general liability coverage for NARGS and/or the chapter for the period of the event.  Coordinate with the NARGS Treasurer to obtain coverage.

Meeting registrations can be completed online; costs for programming will be borne by the hosting chapter. The meeting coordinator, treasurer, or registrar (whether from within or outside the hosting chapter) can contact the NARGS treasurer for details.

The following document clarifies the current policy for the relationship between NARGS national and the chapter hosting Annual General Meetings (AGM's) and Study Weekends.  It describes what NARGS will do to help the chapter financially and the chapter's responsibility, in return.

North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) Policy - Annual General Meetings and Study Weekends           

Preface

This policy covers meetings hosted by NARGS and its chapters as well as meetings that are co-hosted with organizations that are not part of NARGS.  There are several ways in which NARGS will support the chapter hosting a meeting and a number of requests that NARGS has of the chapter.

Special event insurance must be obtained to provide general liability coverage for NARGS and the chapter for the period of the event, including pre- and post-event activities.  The chapter is responsible for payment of the premium. Coordinate with the NARGS treasurer to obtain coverage.

If the meeting registrations are made online, costs for programming will be borne by the hosting chapter (standardized software is available for event registration; contact the Website Committee for guidance).  The meeting coordinator, treasurer, or registrar from the hosting chapter can contact the NARGS treasurer for details.

Annual General Meeting

The NARGS Annual General Meeting (AGM) shall be hosted by active NARGS Chapters.  However, additional help may be required in cases where the AGM is held in an area that is not easily served by a chapter. Since the AGM is an official NARGS meeting, final approval of the budget and program is required from the NARGS Adcom.  Attendees must be NARGS members.

It is recognized that a chapter may look to National for financial support, either in the form of (a) an advance when the chapter has insufficient funds to cover necessary outlays or (b) the subsidization of a loss incurred when expenses exceed realized income.  NARGS will agree to subsidize 100% of any unexpected shortfall only when the sponsoring chapter follows the following procedure:

1.     A tentative budget for the meeting must be submitted to the NARGS Treasurer as soon as practicable (but in no case less than 12 months prior to the event) and prior to setting the final registration price. In the event that the proposed budget cannot be prepared at least 12 months in advance (due to unforeseen circumstances), the Chapter can ask AdCom for an exception and have the budget reviewed at a later date.

2.     The budget shall include projected costs for all expense items (including speaker's fees, hotel guarantees, rental fees, administrative costs, etc.), a "break-even" attendance figure based on the projected registration fee, and any other information the Treasurer may request. This additional information may include the proposed contract with the hotel detailing the guarantees such as room nights and food and beverage.  Peripheral activities include plant sales, auctions, raffles, pre- and post-conference tours, etc. that are not included in the registration fee.

3.     The Executive Secretary can provide a set of guidelines to assist Chapters when planning for meetings.

4.     The hosting Chapter must also agree to accept credit cards and allow payment through PayPal or other acceptable intermediaries.  The chapter or sponsoring organization will be responsible for payment of credit card and PayPal processing fees. (Those payments can be fulfilled through the NARGS website.)

5.     If the Treasurer, after consultation with the Administrative Committee (Ad Com), concurs with the submitted budget, NARGS will agree to subsidize 100% of any unexpected shortfall, provided that no significant changes have been made during the implementation of the planning.

When the hosting chapter complies with the above requirements, NARGS agrees to the following items:

1. Advance seed money, if necessary, to the local chapter in an amount approved by the AdCom      

               2. Make no charge for the inclusion of an announcement in the Quarterly nor for the use of the NARGS mailing list. The free space provided in the Quarterly shall be at one full page or two half pages, but may be greater if agreed to by the Quarterly Editor of Adcom.

3. Cover any shortfall balance (after the local Chapter has exhausted all income from peripheral sales), provided that the Chapter has complied with the required budge approval process.

The sponsoring Chapter is responsible for the following:

               1. Determine the net profit or loss as follows:

    (a) Calculate the profit or loss from conference registrations and optional meal income less conference expenses and NARGS Seed Money Advances.

    (b) Calculate the net profit from peripheral sales.

    (c) A Chapter may choose to avoid the bookkeeping associated with the AGM and peripheral activities.  If so, the profit or loss will be determined based upon the income and expenses associated with all activities.

               2. Allocate profit or loss:

a. In the event of a profit in 1(a) or 1(c), a minium of 25% will be paid to NARGS and the remainder will be retained by the hosting Chapter.  The host Chapter can retain all of the net profit from 1b, although additional contributions to NARGS will be welcomed.

b. In the event of a loss in 1(a), profit from 1(b) will be applied to off-set the loss, with any remaining balance being retained by the hosting Chapter.

c. In the event of a loss in 1(c) or there are insufficient funds in 1(b) to cover the loss in 1(a), the Chapter shall advise NARGS the extent of the shortfall and apply for relief either by way of a reduction in repayment of seed money, or if this does not cover the entire deficit, a grant to cover the remainder.

Study Weekends

There should be at least one Study Weekend each calendar year and the location shall be rotated as much as possible throughout the United States and Canada.  Except as noted below, the policies related to hosting a Study Weekend are the same as those stated above for an AGM.

1. Attendees are encouraged to be NARGS members, but non-NARGS members may attend.

2. The free space provided in the Quarterly shall be at a half page, but may be greater if agreed to by the Quarterly Editor or Adcom.

Co-Hosted Meetings

Chapters can co-host meetings with other organizations (e.g. native plant societies, international garden societies). Chapters involved with co-hosted meetings are encouraged to follow all of the procedures stated above for an AGM.  If a Chapter chooses not to avail itself of the above procedure, then net profits do not need to be shared with NARGS, although contributions to NARGS will be welcomed. If the co-hosting Chapter chooses not to avail itself of the above procedure, and subsequently incurs a financial loss on a meeting, NARGS has no financial obligations but may agree to subsidize a portion of the loss incurred by the Chapter, with each situation being decided on its merits and circumstances.  NARGS will not cover any losses incurred by non-NARGS organizations.

 

Approved by NARGS AdCom at 2008 EWSW: 3/28/08

Item 2a Amended and approved by NARGS AdCom at 2009 AGM:  3/09

Amended and approved by NARGS AdCom at the 2012 AGM : 3/9/2012

Amended and approved by NARGS AdCom October 2016

Amended and approved by NARGS Adcom November 2017

 

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