By Brandi McGrath Kong, Director of Member Service and Conferences
The 2023 Regional Convention season is nearly over. As of this writing, we have held four events this spring, with another one just a week away. While the attendance numbers admittedly have not been as strong as we had hoped, we have been quite pleased with the positive feedback we have received regarding the events and educational overall. There have been, of course, also some things we have learned, and we look forward to implementing these adjustments in the years ahead.
With all that said, today’s blog is set to address some of the frequently asked questions we received regarding the planning process during Town Halls held in each region. These are things we were able to address in person with attendees but also wanted to share with other Sertomans who were not able to join us this year.
Question: Why did HQ “take over” Regional Conventions?
I would start by slightly rephrasing that question. The goal was not to “take over” the Regional Conventions but rather to shift the financial and planning burdens off local clubs. What we have found is that many regions struggled to find clubs willing and/or able to take on the responsibility of planning a Regional Convention. Not only would it leave them financially burdened when a convention did not perform as expected (something that did unfortunately happen in detrimental ways for a few clubs), it also put additional strain on already busy volunteers. Headquarters staff has worked closely with Regional Directors throughout the entire process. I have been happy to hear from many members that they have enjoyed attending without having to “work” the entire time.
Question: How did the education come about?
Regional Convention education was put together by a national Education Committee to provide a consistent learning experience in all regions. The goal was to hopefully provide a refreshing take in regions where the same trainings had been repeated for years, while also allowing Sertomans to choose the convention date and location most convenient for them. Session topics were chosen based on feedback from past regional conventions that was shared with HQ, survey results from the 2021 and 2022 National Conferences, social media comments, comments received by staff from members, and additional input from committee members.
Question: How did you choose a host city?
With the change in planning responsibility, it is no longer required that a convention be held in a city where a local club exists. For instance, in Heart of America, this year’s event took place in Oklahoma City, which is somewhat centrally located within the region but does not have a local club. In locations where a club does exist, they may be asked to volunteer in some capacity by the Regional Director or staff, but they will in no way be obligated to do so or asked to provide financial assistance. Simply put, there is not an official host club anymore.
Sertoma staff will do its best to bid out a few locations in a region each year to help get the best contract possible for the organization and its members, while also ensuring that event needs are met and rotating the location from year to year. Regional Directors are also consulted as staff gets further in the planning process to ensure the location, dates and number of hotel room nights make sense for each event.
Question: How can we get more people to attend?
Word-of-mouth marketing is always going to be the best way to encourage others to attend events like the Sertoma Regional Conventions. It is something we have talked about at each event. We have encouraged attendees to go back to their clubs and share what they have learned with their fellow members in hopes that it will get them excited about attending next year. If you attended a regional convention this year, make it not only your goal to attend again in 2024 but to also bring a friend. The more Sertomans we can get into a room together, the greater the work that can be done together in the name of Service to Mankind.
If you have any other questions about the Regional Conventions or would like to share ideas for next year, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.