How to make the Most of your Chapter Meetings

Seems like an easy deal: sign up, show up, hang out, tee it up and head home. But if that is your game plan for attending your local GCSAA affiliated chapter event, you are really missing out on great opportunities to broaden your horizons. Think about it, a full day to interact with your peers in a relaxed atmosphere that typically includes a great educational program, a nice meal and an opportunity to experience golf at one of the finest facilities in your area. You can probably increase your value to your employer more in a single day than you can in months by making the most of your opportunity. Following is a list of what to do, and what not to do to maximize your chapter meeting experience. The most common reasons chapter members say they don’t attend meetings are cost, travel distance, and time away from the job. This article addresses some of these concerns and offers tips to reduce these hurdles, whether you are a superintendent, assistant, affiliate member or any other member who wants to attend meetings and make the most of your time, effort and money.

Do: Register early.
Your board of directors and chapter executive work very hard to make sure all of the details for each meeting are organized and first class. Knowing how many people are going to attend is always a mystery and makes arranging menus, room setup and golf format a challenge. When you see a meeting announcement you know you want to attend, sign up early. Don’t put that meeting announcement in a pile on your desk or in a folder in your email. If something comes up and you have to cancel your registration, it is no big deal. Just let chapter leaders know as soon as you can.

Don’t: Wait until the last minute to cancel your registration.
If something comes up and you have to cancel your registration, let chapter leaders know as soon as you can. A last minute cancellation can really throw a wrench into best laid plans. If you have ever had to rearrange a four person handicapped scramble tournament at the last minute with four last minute cancelations, two no shows and three new players, you’ll know exactly why this is important. It’s the nature of the industry to have last minute things come up, so sometimes it impossible to avoid, but please be courteous to your chapter leaders who are working hard to make the events run smoothly.

Do: Support your organization.
Part of your association’s commitment to providing great education and member services depends on good meeting attendance. At most courses, the financial liability and risk for securing a meeting site are significant. Your attendance and registrations fees help cover the costs of speakers, refreshments and more. The better the attendance, the more easily your association can provide exceptional member services and programs. Many members find a way for at least one person from their operation to attend each event. Chapters benefit greatly when courses and companies adopt that goal.

Do: Bring a guest to a meeting.
Most chapter meetings have room for members to bring guests. That is a great opportunity to demonstrate the professional nature of your group and to show a general manager, golf professional, or club official how important it is to attend meetings. Meetings are also a great incentive or reward for assistants or crew members for a job well done. This can be a great way to do some team building in a productive way. Don’t forget nonmembers. Inviting them as guests is a great way to show them the benefits of belonging to the association and helping your chapter grow. Make sure to check with your chapter for their guest policy ahead of time.

Do: Invite a fellow member to a meeting.
Pick up the phone, send a text or email and invite a fellow member to a meeting. Think what it would mean to a new member to be personally invited to be a part of the group. And it doesn’t have to be a newcomer, some members just get out of the habit of attending meetings, and an invitation to attend may be just the nudge needed to get them back in the swing of things. Most members work within a few miles of several other courses or members while some meetings could be more than 100 miles round trip depending on your location. Sharing a ride is a great way to reduce expenses and spend extra time with your local peers. For vendors, inviting customers (or potential customers) to meetings is a great way to show your appreciation for their business and to build relationships. Inviting a member and offering to cover his or her entry fee is as good or better an investment of your company’s money than taking someone to lunch or the ballgame, and it’s a much more productive and industry related method.

Do: Prepare to be gone for the day
Anyone can always come up with a hundred reasons why they can’t be away from the job for even a day. But the truth is most operations can survive just fine even with the superintendent gone provided everyone is prepared. Make sure the right people at your course know where you are going and exactly what is expected to be accomplished while you are gone. Plan for these days well in advance and things will go smoothly. You will only be a phone call away, and most issues can wait until you return the next day.

Do: Arrive early.
Some of the best opportunities to meet people and network come before the actual agenda starts, when the crowd is smaller and people are relaxed. Usually, meetings are packed with activity, and it helps when everyone arrives a little early so everyone can get registered and the event can start on time. Make sure you have clear directions especially in an area you are not familiar with. And if you haven’t noticed, traffic is more unpredictable than Mother Nature, so plan ahead.

Don’t: Skip the education and lunch.
Most chapters offer members the option to participate in only the education and meeting portion. It is a great option if it is not possible to be away from the course all day or other commitments prevent you from playing golf into the afternoon. However, if you skip the education and only make the golf, you are definitely missing the best opportunity to gain important knowledge from the program. If the education doesn’t pertain to your current situation, it is very likely that it may someday.

Do: Meet new people
Just look around and you are sure to find someone new to introduce yourself to at a meeting. Most people gravitate to those they already know, but everyone benefits from meeting new members in this setting. Set a goal for each meeting to shake three to five new hands. It is always amusing to hear longtime members say they don’t recognize all the new people. Well, there is an easy remedy for that. Golf tends to mix members up so you will always meet someone new or get to know others better. Make sure you take the time during your round to really get to know your playing partners.

Don’t: Worry about your golf game
There are many really good golfers in golf course management. But the majority of members are just out for a good time and have a golf game that leaves a lot to be desired. Most members have a handicap closer to 18 than single digits. So don’t worry about your ability or how you stack up with the rest of the group. Most golf formats take handicap into consideration, so you won’t be at a disadvantage if breaking 90 for you is rarer than a Tiger Woods 3 putt. All members of all abilities are welcome and encouraged to participate in all golf events. Besides, if your score is high enough, you will probably get the ultimate compliment about your golf game — “You’re working too hard.”

Do: Share with your peers.
Please come to the meetings ready to share your troubles, your successes and even your failures. Chapter members have always been supportive of each other, are always ready to share information and are prepared to extend a helping hand. Nine times out of 10 you will find someone who has faced the same issues you are battling and is willing to share their experience. Participate in meetings by asking questions or providing insight. Chapters have a priceless database of a massive amount of information that is very useful if everyone is willing to participate by contributing.

Don’t: Only talk about business.
Believe it or not, there is more to life than the weather, growing grass and golfers who are driving you crazy. Get to know some of your fellow members on a different level by talking about their families, hobbies, sports or anything other than golf and growing grass. You’ll find out that they are a pretty interesting bunch, and it helps to find common ground with your peers.

Do: Welcome affiliate members who
Affiliate members make up about half of most chapters’ total membership and contribute very generously with their membership, participation at meetings, and sponsorships. Affiliates are a very valuable component to the success of chapters and deserve the right to participate. Just like superintendents, they have a job to do, and building relationships with their customers is a very important part of their jobs. So don’t be offended if affiliate members introduce themselves and leave you with a business card. Associations recognize the value of all of their members, and all members should share in that spirit.

Don’t: Hesitate to pat the host
superintendent on the back.

Hosting a meeting is a very stressful endeavor, and superintendents should be praised for inviting their peers to inspect their work with a fine tooth comb. A thoughtful comment or compliment to the host can go a long way to relieve that stress. Not everyone works with the same budget or under the same circumstances, so it helps to let the host know that you recognize the job they are doing with the resources they manage.

Do: Enjoy yourself in a responsible manner.
You are representing your place of employment, your association, and your profession when you are in public at chapter functions. Your reputation depends on the way you dress, your language, and above all, your actions. Superintendents are now considered a leading professional in the golf industry and should be aware of that when visiting host clubs. Don’t you want the host club personnel and members to have a great impression of your group?

Do: Follow up.
With email and text messaging, it couldn’t take a whole minute to write a quick thank you to the host superintendent or a greeting to playing partners or someone new you met. If you have more time, pick up the phone or leave a message. Those kinds of efforts are really appreciated by the recipient and will help you build that all important network that will benefit you and your career in the future.

Do: Let your supervisor know about the event
Make a habit of letting your supervisor know what type of education was presented, what you learned from playing the course, who you met, etc. He or she is probably the person writing the checks to pay for the meeting, so you want to make sure they know the facility is getting its money’s worth and your attendance at future meetings is of value. It can be as simple as a quick conversation over a cup of coffee or a written report depending on your situation. Keeping your supervisor informed will help justify the costs associated with meeting attendance.

Do: Provide feedback to your chapter.
Your chapter leaders are always working to make your meetings enjoyable and productive. In order to accomplish this, feedback from the membership is necessary and important. Take the time to let them know what you enjoyed or appreciated, and also let them know if you have any suggestions or constructive criticism about how the meetings can be made better. Hopefully, these suggestions will give you a few things to think about when it comes to chapter meeting attendance. So, make plans today to attend an upcoming event and make the most of your experience.

Reprinted with permission from Brian Cloud ,GCSAA Field Staff
South Central Regional Representative.
Brian Cloud has extensive background in the golf course management industry through his experience as a golf course superintendent, agronomic consultant, association volunteer, and as the chapter executive for the North Texas GCSA.

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