Meetings & Programs
Chapters host meetings both to conduct business and to provide educational programs and activities for the membership. Most chapters combine business meetings with programs, but on some occasions, a meeting may be exclusively for business or for presenting a program. This discussion assumes that meetings will include a brief business meeting along with a program.
According to Society Bylaws, FNPS Chapters are required to hold at least six meetings or field trips per year. All FNPS Chapter meetings are open to all FNPS members. The purpose of these meetings is to provide local members the opportunity to gather in person to get to know each other, be apprised of Society and Chapter action, share information and resources, and provide input for activities and priorities. In the majority of cases, meetings are also open to the general public, as they also used to recruit new members and for fund-raising.
A business meeting is any meeting where chapter business is to be conducted, and where the membership will need to make decisions including but not limited to officer elections and budget approvals. Business meetings require that all chapter members must be notified in advance. Any of the meeting notification techniques listed below can serve as notification.
Chapters meet in a variety of community locations, typically where meeting space can be scheduled for no or low cost for an extended period. The ideal meeting space will be centrally located, be amenable to refreshments, have adequate parking and lighting, and easily accommodate at least 50 people. In a perfect world, the facility would also offer storage for Chapter supplies. Some of the best locations are permanently equipped for public education. Some examples include extension service offices, community centers, and environmental education centers.
If possible, meetings should be held once a month to facilitate the continuity and communication of the FNPS Chapter. FNPS Chapters that recess during the summer may find this is an excellent time to plan programs and events for the next year. Most chapters hold meetings on a regularly scheduled day of the week within a regularly scheduled week of the month (e.g., 2nd Monday). If the regular meeting night happens to fall on a holiday, it is advantageous to reschedule this meeting to an alternate date with plenty of advance notice.
Most FNPS Chapters hold their meetings in the evening. Evenings are most convenient for most members with jobs and daytime time commitments. Evenings meetings, however, do present a problem for some members who have difficulty driving at night. The FNPS Chapter may offer car pool arrangements for members to boost attendance
All members should be contacted prior to the meeting to remind them to attend. Although additional methods are addressed under Chapter Publicity, minimally, the methods below should be consistently utilized.
- Newsletters. Chapter newsletters—whether provided electronically via e-mail or postal service—should include chapter meeting locations, dates, times and speaker information.
- FNPS website. Chapters provide their regular monthly meeting day (eg., 2nd Tuesday of the month), location, and meeting time to FNPS Administrative Services, firstname.lastname@example.org. This information is then automatically posted on the Chapters page of the FNPS website.
- FNPS calendar. FNPS provides a calendar to all chapters that can be used for posting chapter events. Chapters are required to maintain this calendar. It can be displayed on chapter websites and on the main FNPS calendar which is on FNPS.org and available to the public and to all FNPS members. This calendar can include detailed information about programs, field trips, plant sales, and other events.
- Chapter website. Most FNPS Chapters have their own web sites, and these should be used to provide detailed information about meetings and the issues that will be discussed. Chapter websites can and should display the FNPS chapter calendar.
- Social media. If the chapter maintains a Facebook, Meetup, or Instagram page, it is strongly encouraged to advertize chapter meetings on the calendar. Social media is not considered to be notification of a business meeting.
- Email and postal mail. Some chapters email the membership with meeting agendas. Email alone is not adequate as the sole method of notification for business meetings since some members to not have email -- it can be supplemented by postal mail and/or posting on a Chapter's website or in the FNPS calendar for the chapter.
Preparation and Scheduling
Chapter Officers and Chapter Standing Committee Representatives should communicate prior to the regular FNPS Chapter monthly meeting to ensure that important issues and events are included on the agenda. Review of board meeting minutes a few weeks before the meeting will help the board wrap up any undone business, as well as prepare to introduce issues to the membership at the meeting. Several Chapters maintain a planning calendar to ensuring important business occurs as planned.
Regular monthly gatherings should be a maximum of two hours. The typical meeting agenda includes introductions, chapter business, and a program (usually a speaker), and some form of opportunity for socializing (refreshments, informal mini-programs, a fund raising activity or plant sale, etc.). Generally, the business meeting should not be the last item on the schedule. Tone, content and structure of Chapter meetings will vary with the makeup of the membership, and should be regularly reviewed by the Chapter Board to ensure meetings are enjoyable, educational and productive for the membership at large.
Meeting tool kit
- Display boards or banners
- Membership Brochures and Chapter Information Brochures
- Chapter Business cards
- Sign-in Sheets for visitors (some Chapters ask members to sign in as well).
- Nametags for members and guests, with large markers
- Fieldguides and other reference books from the Chapter Library
- DVDs or Powerpoint Presentations to show if the Speaker cancels
- Electronic slideshow of native plants, fieldtrips or landscaping to display before the meeting
- FLEPPC list (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council) and Southeast Regional Guide to Pest Plants
- Free public educational materials from Florida Yards and Neighborhoods, or the water management districts
- Reprints of relevant articles from IFAS
- Brochures and Schedules from Partner Organizations
- Factsheets related to the Speaker’s Topic
- Photo albums or clipping scrapbooks from Chapter activities
Conducting the Meeting
Normally, the president conducts the FNPS Chapter meeting, serving as moderator throughout. In his/her absence another officer should preside, as specified in Chapter bylaws. It is best to start the meeting at the advertised time. The presiding officer or program coordinator greets the attendees, provides an introduction, a brief overview of the FNPS mission, and facilitates the meeting’s agenda. A welcome to visitors and recognition of new members breaks the ice and gives members a chance to learn guests' names. This is also a time to give guests any educational materials that the chapter may have for this purpose, give them a membership application, and ask them to join.
FNPS Chapter Business
The chapter business portion of meetings should have a clear start and stop point, be conducted in an orderly manner, and be guided by rules of order that have been previously been selected by the chapter for conduct of meetings. Robert's Rules of Order is well known, but is much more complex than needed for the running of chapter meetings. Another alternative is the Democratic Rules of Order which is much simpler and available on-line.
The business portion of the meeting typically includes review of the executive committee meeting minutes, a treasurer's report, and if necessary, membership discussion or approval of community projects. The treasurer's report should highlight major expenses (e.g., expenditures exceeding one hundred dollars) and the current bank balance.
In general, standing committees reports (e.g., conservation, membership, programs or field trips) should be limited to three minutes. Complex topics should be discussed at Executive Committee or BOD meetings prior to the general meeting, with recommendations brought for membership consideration. Conversely, to keep things moving, issues brought from the floor should be quickly summarized by the meeting’s moderator, and delegated to the BOD for further handling (See Public Meeting Troubleshooting)
Field Trips Announcements
Any upcoming Field trips should be discussed at each monthly meeting, including key features, meeting place, and relevant reminders about equipping for the trip (e.g., long pants, water, insect repellant, field guides, loupes, etc.). Recent field trips are described by participants; some Chapters show digital slideshows from fieldtrips during Socializing Time.
Opportunity to enjoy refreshments, hold an auction, etc. make a great way to begin and/or end the meeting. This is also time to sell merchandise, answer questions and distribute educational materials. It should be standard practice to engage all guests in conversation, as well as promote conversation among the membership (see Membership Communications).
Additional Meeting Options
Some FNPS Chapters have brief mini-programs such as:
- Slides of local native plants in bloom and their common and scientific names, native landscape plants, a member's native landscaped yard or business and a brief description of the project.
- A short period for plant identification, or discussion of plant species offered for sale or auction.
- A book review.
- Edible native plant food or drink samples.
- Details of local community service projects.
Note that these activities should be brief and technically correct.
A standard duration for a talk is 45 minutes to 1 hour. Be sure to let the speaker know about time constraints before they assemble their talk. Allot time at the end for questions and answers, perhaps 10 to 15 fifteen minutes. The speaker’s presentation time should be scheduled to permit enough time for FNPS Chapter business.
Good topics are somewhat dependent on availability of good speakers, but where you live will also influence the topics you offer in other ways. In areas where many organizations provide public programs on nature or conservation, consider tightening the focus to mission related topics, i.e., related to native plants. Where there is little competition, your topics may broaden to make sure the citizens are exposed to the major conservation issues.
The composition of your membership will also influence your topics. For example, some Chapters prefer science-based programs; some have arranged for their programs to be considered as curriculum in science programs for community colleges. Others have a large percentage of home gardeners more interested in horticulture. A good strategy is hold a brief brainstorming session at a membership meeting each year to allow the members to suggest topics.
Tried and True Topics
- Wildflowers of Florida
- Umbrella Animal Species of your area
- Scientific Names for Plants and What they Mean
- Rare and Endangered Plants
- Invasive Plant Species
- Pollinators, Butterfly Gardening
- Gardening for Wildlife
- Landscaping with Native Plants
- Restoration Projects on Public Lands
- Species-Specific, e.g. Palms, Ferns, Oaks, Pines
Selecting a Speaker
Word of mouth is the best way to find speakers. Attending symposiums or the annual FNPS conference is a great way to hear potential speakers and make initial contact. Checking the joint Calendar on the FNPS Website to see who is presenting at other Chapters will also provide some leads on speakers, or ideas for topics. Most speakers are willing to recommend other speakers that they feel would be suitable for your Chapter. Many agencies in your part of the state will have speaker’s bureaus, and it is helpful to get a list of available speakers. Contact County Extension Services, Arboretums, nature preserves, state parks, and local public agencies. While you can usually get local speakers with a short notice, many popular speakers book talks at least a year ahead.
All speakers should be thanked in some way. Different chapters have different ways of saying thank you since their budgets vary widely, and the extent to which a speaker has had to travel or otherwise incur expenses varies. Some speakers need to be paid for their time and/or travel . Some speakers require that they be paid to speak. Honorariums can cover expenses, fuel, hotel room and a speaker’s fee. These financial items should be always be clarified in advance of the presentation, along with method of payment. Speakers associated with government or educational institutions may consider talks part of their job duties, therefore costs are covered by their employer.
Even a speaker who asks for nothing should get something. It could be a plant. It could be dinner. It could be a personal field trip. It could be an honorarium. Make sure your speakers are looked after!
Speaker Contact Checklist
Once you have a speaker booked, it is recommend that you contact your speaker at least two months prior to the talk and again at least two weeks prior. Be sure to give the speaker a contact phone number as well as cell phone number once they arrive in the area. Here is a checklist of information to cover:
- Speaker Fees, if applicable (How much and when is it due)
- Topic and brief description of the planned presentation
- Presenter brief bio
- Consent to videotape, if applicable
- Talk schedule and duration
- Audio-Visual needs
- Sales of books or other merchandize (Details if applicable)
- Lodging Details (Where, maps, what nights)
- Meal Details (What, where, when)
- Contact Information (Who and contact numbers)
Introducing Your Speaker
Ask for a speaker bio ahead of time so you can be familiar with the information, and use it to publicize the program. The introduction of a speaker sets the tone for both the speaker and the audience and is an important part of any presentation. It is always preferable to have the introductions done by someone who knows the speaker and is excited that the speaker is there. Introductions should be brief, but detailed enough to give the audience an idea of who they are going to hear and what they will learn. A good introduction includes the speaker's name, their topic and a synopsis of their background. The introduction can also include a highlight of their work history, major awards, and their educational background when relevant.
Keeping Your Speaker on Time
You will want to review the time allocated and work out time-keeping procedures with your speaker prior to the talk. Seasoned speakers are likely to be seasoned time-keepers as well, but some can get caught up in the topic. You may offer to have a designated person sitting in the front of the room to give a 10 minute signal followed by a five-minute signal. This allows the speaker time to wrap up the presentation in a sensible manner. A piece of white cardboard that can be seen in the dark or something similar is recommended.
It's always a nice touch to send a thank you note to your speakers. Make sure to ask speakers to recommend other speakers for future presentations. Also, make sure that particularly compelling speakers are known to other Chapters.