By Carol VanOrnum, Vice President, Civil War Roundtable Congress
One of the takeaways that Leight Murray, President of the Civil War Round Table of the Mid-Ohio Valley, took from the 2017 CWRT Congress Conference was this: “It doesn’t matter how much you pay your speakers; the important thing is how you treat them.” It is the welcoming hospitality shown to your speakers, coupled with competent and comfortable accommodations, that keep them coming back.
The basics are essential. Providing proper AV equipment and technical support when needed is crucial. A table for authors to sell and sign books is a welcoming touch. A dinner before the event offers the speakers an opportunity to get to know their hosts. Pay travel expenses and stay in touch! Your speaker should be given at least two contacts from your Round Table in case one falls out of touch. They appreciate ample publicity before the event. Speakers rejoice in robust Q and A, especially from a large and enthusiastic audience. They enjoy meeting the members before and after their presentations. During the presentation have your members turn off their phones. Speakers can see the audience scanning their emails, texting to others, and searching the internet.
Traveling is not much fun these days. To make their trip worthwhile, and if they can come in a day early or linger an extra day, provide a tour of someplace they’ve never been. Recently, the Indianapolis CWRT hosted speaker Steve Phan, who works at Camp Nelson in Kentucky. According to Program Chair Nikki Stoddard Schofield, they pre-arranged a tour of Crown Hill Cemetery, the third-largest cemetery in the country. Notably buried at Crown Hill is Union General Jefferson Columbus Davis – the general who murdered “Bull” Nelson, for whom Camp Nelson is named. Steve was thrilled to see the monument, and texted, “Best day ever!” to President Steve Magnuson the following day.
Some speakers are amenable to an invitation to stay overnight at a member’s home. President Leight Murray of the Mid-Ohio CWRT offers not only private guest accommodations, but his hospitality includes “a home-made breakfast in the morning – maybe a quiche or veggie omelet to begin the day.” Their CWRT also keeps a list of museums and sites to visit.
Very recently, the Twin Cities CWRT gave speaker John Fazio a tour of the State Capitol, which is filled with Civil War artifacts and paintings. Fazio wrote, “What made the trip even greater for me was the truly splendid tour of the State Capitol that was given to me. Perhaps the high point of the tour, however, were the Civil War paintings. These are easily the most striking Civil War paintings I have ever seen, especially the one depicting the Battle of Nashville by Howard Pyle, which I found to be breathtaking.”
By building a reputation as a Round Table that knows how to treat a speaker, your speakers will want to come back again and again. But not only them—they also have author/historian friends. If they are well-treated, the reputation of your CWRT is enhanced in the historian community.