Chamber Made Column-Feb. 25, 2012

Behind the Scenes of the Chamber’s Biggest Event

You would think after almost 17 years on the job that the Northeast Kingdom Chamber annual meeting would be routine by now. Not so. I still get butterflies each and every year, and I don’t think that is a bad thing. I have found the secret in running a well-organized event is to never let it become routine. I thought in today’s column I would give you a sense of what we do in the background to pull this large event off.

The most important item to put on the old to-do list is to not get sick, as I was last year, with a ferocious cold. I can say with some level of certainty it is not welcoming to have your chamber director sound like she is the love child of Darth Vader and Suzanne Pleshette at a meeting of such import. Potential sickness affecting the main characters of the meeting, the presidents and myself, is one of the major reasons we always script the event, from the pledge to the sendoff. More than once, when a president had a pesky case of the flu, one of us has had to step in for the other, but I am getting ahead of myself. There is much to do before we ever step to the podium.

The leaves have not yet fallen from the trees when the first tasks on the to-do list start in earnest, finding candidates for openings on the board of trustees. These individuals come from all sorts of businesses and corners of the Kingdom and must have a real sense of what we do as a chamber. Around the same time, our current board members discuss who might be a good speaker for the meeting. I commend the boards for their decision on Lt. Governor Phil Scott this year, as he was excellent, very folksy and had a great sense of humor. Once we book our guest speaker, we finalize the date, time and cost with Donna Wheeler, Lyndon State College’s wonderful director of Conference and Guest Relations. And then the real fun starts.

One of the best parts of this meeting is deciding which members receive honors, including our Kingdom Improvement Awards, Kingdom Recognition Awards and the other special accolades bestowed upon members. While the improvement award focuses on the aesthetic changes made at a business, the recognition honor marks an achievement at the member business that year.

If you have never been to one of our annual meetings, you would not know the pride I put into writing the pun-filled descriptions on the award certificates. Whether it is the  White Market renovation being a “Bona-fied success” or the WilloughVale Inn on Lake Willoughby “shorely” being one of the state’s most beautiful accommodations,  I don’t think I have done my job unless I hear a groan or two from the audience. You would be surprised how long it takes to write a bad pun.

We could not put on this meeting without the help of many, including our trustees, the college and Sharon Reihmer at Framing Format. We would also like to thank Pastor Rick Menard for delivering a most heartfelt invocation and the Stephen Huneck Gallery at Dog Mountain for its most fitting gift to our racecar-driving lieutenant governor, a dog and its owner on a tractor. It got a big chuckle out of Lt. Governor Scott.

We would also like to thank Kingdom Access and the Caledonian-Record for their excellent coverage of the meeting. Business Editor Leah Carey took some wonderful pictures of the event that are appearing in today’s paper, in fact. We thank one and all for all they did to make the event a success! Well, back to work I go; I have lots of thank you notes to write.

(Darcie McCann is the executive director of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber. She can’t wait until a dentist gets an award so she can write the headline “Dentist Gets Plaque.” )

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