Come talk to us

Editorial Orchids in NZ December 1994

One of the biggest problems facing society secretaries at the moment is finding someone to talk at the monthly meetings. If the members of the society are to be kept both informed and entertained, it is important that good speakers be secured, otherwise much interest in the meetings will be lost, perhaps eventually even leading to a loss of members.

Within any society there are always those able to contribute cultural and other advice and pass on their years of growing expertise. The panel forum of question and answer can always be relied on to bring out valuable information of assistance and interest to both long term and novice growers. But there is a limit to the number of times such sessions can be run in any one year.

There is a limit to the number of speakers a society has. Any one programme must include a number of outside speakers. The Orchid Council of New Zealand has an Overseas Speakers Fund where authorities from around the world are brought in to address society meetings. Unfortunately, because of costs and resources, they can only speak to each society on rotation, and joint meetings are the norm to ensure their address is heard by the widest number of orchid growers possible. It Is perhaps an aside that even this resource seems not to be fully utilised, as some recent visitors have not enjoyed the attendance that their presentations deserved.

The obvious solution to this is to seek speakers from outside the society. It may he that other topics are covered, but generally the subject will be orchids, or orchid related material. There is a lot of goodwill amongst orchid growers, and most experienced growers are only too happy to oblige in talking to other society meetings, not only in their immediate locality, but traveling considerable distances in some instances.

There is, however, a limit to this goodwill. If common curtesies are not followed, then societies they will find it difficult to get outside speakers. At the last AGM some examples of how some speakers had been treated upset some of those attending the meeting. But the examples were certainly not unique and it is incumbent on all societies to ensure that such unsatisfactory treatment is not repeated.

Those involved in commercial orchid nurseries will speak, but remember that time away from the nursery is money lost. Some of their expenses may be tax deductible, but there are still costs they will have to meet. If a commercial grower is asked to speak to a meeting, isn't it reasonable that he or she be allowed, no, not just allowed, but invited to sell some plants on the sales table. And perhaps it would be niece for someone in the society to help the visitor in this task. But is it reasonable that they then be charged commission on any sales made? To attend a meeting some distance away could well take up half a days time, so is it not fair for some fair and reasonable recompense to be provided.

I know that some societies offer to provide accommodation and offer petrol vouches etc. But have you really thought what costs the speaker has incurred. A ten or twenty dollar voucher may look generous, but for a speaker traveling 150 to 200 km, and with current car costs worked out by the AA at some 70 cents per kilometers, that hardly even covers the petrol costs alone. A commercial dealer may be able sell some plants to recoup some costs, but what about the poor amateur speaker who has nothing to sell and many of them may be retired and on a fixed income.

Here we are talking about the end, but do not forget the start. Remember to ensure a proper invitation is offered .o the speaker, with full details of time and location. An invitation on the bottom of some other message " come and speak to our meeting, - phone me and say when you are coming" is hardly appropriate, but that is how one invitation was extended by one society. How would you like to receive such an invitation to your place. I know most amateur speakers do not. look for remuneration, but with the costs of travel in particular that are involved these days it is fair to ensure your speaker is not totally out of pocket, especially if you want to get hem to return again some day.

Where a speaker is initially first contacted by phone, follow up in writing with details of meeting venue, location of the hall etc. if the speaker is unfamiliar with the venue. Ensure a parking space is provided and that assistance is offered to set up and take down any equipment required. Such consideration will ensure that the experience of speaking to your society is remembered with pleasure and not distaste.

To do a talk of half an hour or so can involve two or three hours preparation. If you want speakers to come to your society, surely it is not too much to ask that they be treated reasonably. If this does not happen, you may find increasing difficulties obtaining competent speakers. Perhaps this may well he the reason some societies are already experiencing difficulties in this regard.

I do not want to be a 'winger' but from a number of comments made recently it is obvious that some speakers have not he treated well. It is important that those invited to speak do prepare themselves fully to provide the best 'performance' possible - and 1 am sure they generally do, as I have heard very little criticism of the speakers presentations. Some societies deservedly have a great reputation for being good hosts, having no difficulty finding speakers. But from what hear, there are quite a few that do not share this attribute. I hope this is not your society because we all must share the limited resource of good speakers. Orchid growers generally have a very good reputation for friendliness, so lets not spoil that impression by being poor hosts.


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