Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Changing Of The Guard...

Yesterday evening I attended the monthly planning meeting for the Saint Louis Woodworking Guild. It was a momentous occasion, to say the least! The gentleman who has written our newsletter for the past 17 years has decided to hang up his pen, so to speak. He's tired of writing newsletters; he wants to spend more time in the shop and less time in front of the computer. Incidentally, this coincides with our website administrator's desire to hand off the website maintenance to someone else!

Of course, this didn't all just come up that evening. It is something I've known about for a few months now. It is something our new guild president (a friend of mine, Scott), the new guild secretary (a friend of the president, Matt), another guild member who does website design (Michael), and I have been waiting for.

Not to take anything away from the hard work these two gentlemen have done over the years, but both the newsletter and the website are a bit stale at the moment. The newsletter is written in the format of:
- Brief introduction of what is going on at the next meeting
- Long, detailed (almost verbatim) description of the main presentation at the previous meeting
- A letter from the President
- Very wordy "Library" section on one or two books (just short of being a book itself, honestly)
- Brief overview of miscellaneous things that happened after or before the last presentation (show-and-tell, announcements, items for sale or wanted to buy)

The website was designed years ago with some off-the-shelf web development software that isn't very user-friendly and is a bit behind the times. It's difficult to navigate and it looks, well, "old". It has had a lot of Band-aids applied to it, and they're starting to peel off.

The meeting took place in the back room of a restaurant/bar. I was just a few minutes late, so most everyone else was seated when I arrived. Upon entering the room, I looked at Scott and Michael and Matt and smiled. I could smell it in the air; the time was ripe for change!

The first 20 minutes of the meeting were spent skirting the main topics, but soon we were discussing newsletter and website ideas in fury and earnest.

We talked about things like:
- reducing our mailing costs by sending a link to a .pdf via e-mail
- reformatting the newsletter to increase readability, add relevant material, and cut verbose sections down to a manageable size
- reformatting the website for easier navigation
- add individual member sections where they can update profiles and contact info, pay for their membership fees, and add project images
- how to deal with delinquent members and membership expiration

I was surprised by several things; one is that so many of the board members were excited about the changes and ideas we brought up, but another is how opposed to change one or two of the board members were. One even said we could create the newsletter in .pdf, but he still wanted it mailed to everyone and he wanted it to look exactly like the old newsletters.

Wow - that's progressive.

(I was glad to see everyone else quickly shoot down that idea.)

In the end, it was a really good meeting. The worst part about it was the terrible service from our waiter. He was more intent on taking his smoke breaks than doing things like bringing us our drinks or the bill.

I've started brainstorming for newsletter ideas, from new sections I think might be fun or informative to ways we can keep the content exciting and new. Some of them are existing sections I think we can keep, but most of them are new. Here they are:
- Featured Member
- Letter from the Editor
- Letter from the President
- Events Calendar
- Next Month's Topic
- One or Two Articles that Compliment Next Month's Topic
- Classifieds Section
- Library Corner
- Adventures in Woodworking (this is an idea I got from some old issues of FWW - they stopped doing this section at some point in 1985 or so)
- Ask the Woodnut (Michael thought it would be funny to have a Dear Abby section where members could e-mail in questions or if I didn't have any worth answering I could make something up that reads high on the goofy crap-o-meter.)
- Woodcraft Classes (A sponsorship opportunity? This might answer one of the concerns about the rising costs of producing a newsletter. Our meetings take place in the local Woodcraft store, just 10 short minutes from my house I might add, so maybe I could talk to the owner of the store and see about publishing the class list in every issue for a small fee.)
- Other Learning Opportunities (local colleges offering classes, community centers, woodworking schools, weekend seminars, etc.)

If anyone out there is a member of a woodworking guild and you have any ideas to offer me, I'd love to hear from you!


Kari Hultman said...

Great ideas, Ethan! Sounds like your club was overdue for a changing of the guards. I'm a member of two ww clubs and, while I don't have any new ideas for you, I will be borrowing some of yours at our next planning team meeting. ; )

Ethan said...

ha ha, VC!