By Connie Pool, F140306, National President
I must admit I was a bit worried about what sort of report I’d give you in this month’s column, because I knew I’d be writing about the 79th International Convention in Pomona, California, the first convention that I was responsible for as FMCA president. Boy, was my apprehension misplaced. Although the turnout was smaller (by our standards), the convention was an overwhelming success by all other measurements. The event attracted 2,332 family coaches and 881 commercial coaches, for a total count of 3,213 motorhomes on the site.
We took some risks and offered some entertainment that we thought would appeal to younger attendees, and it turned out to be a big hit with the older crowd, too. When you see people waving lit cell phones to Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, you know you got it right. Entertainment on the first evening featured bands that shared music from the Bee Gees and ABBA, two groups that enjoyed their heyday in the 1970s, and on the final evening we were treated to a performance by the ever-popular Bellamy Brothers. It appears we were able to provide something for everyone.
I really wanted to encourage maximum interaction between the members of the Executive Board and the convention attendees and commercial members, so I asked board members to complete certain tasks before and during the convention. I also requested that board members use their golf carts to assist handicapped members and others who needed rides back to their coaches after entertainment. Both actions paid big dividends for us, and we received some excellent feedback about entertainment and the convention in general.
I also asked Don Eversmann, FMCA executive director, to schedule a “baby boomer focus group,” so I would have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with members who belong to this age range. I wanted to talk with motorhome owners who are still a few years away from retirement to get their perspective on what is important as they travel in their motorhomes. Invitations were sent to a number of FMCA member families registered for the convention whose membership records had indicated that they were 56 years old or younger. Each attendee in this focus group also filled out a survey form to help us understand their background and how they currently are using their motorhomes.
Our discussion had been allotted 1 hour and 30 minutes, but the group was so involved in the sharing of ideas that the meeting ran over by 15 minutes. We stopped then only because we had other commitments. Everyone seemed eager to share their thoughts on how FMCA could become more attractive to individuals who are not yet retired. Their list of suggestions was very enlightening and will be discussed at the national committee meetings that will be held in Cincinnati right about the time this magazine is being printed.
Among the ideas discussed is something our convention staff has been working on: the notion of holding conventions in destination spots. Everyone has more reasons to attend a convention if they know they can visit attractions nearby. Conventions do have many great activities, but people want things to see and do before or after the event, such as visiting Walt Disney World, Six Flags, the Mall of America, and so on. Baby boomers who are still in the workforce are limited in how often they may travel, so ready access to nearby sights they can enjoy in conjunction with a convention helps them to justify taking the time to travel.
Considering the rising cost of fuel, many of us find ourselves re-evaluating the way we travel, no matter our age. Fuel prices will not keep us from traveling but may cause us to be more selective about where we go. One of FMCA’s goals is to have members choose our conventions; therefore, we must make the conventions more attractive.
Another idea suggested by the focus group that I found very interesting was to hold block parties in the convention family parking areas. The suggestion was motivated by the fact that these members really didn’t get to meet the people parked near them. With all the activities going on, people come and go at all times. Block parties could be held in between vendors’ closing times and evening entertainment and involve potlucks or social hours so attendees could meet their neighbors. Interaction with other FMCA members makes the convention just that much better.
Yet another idea from the focus group was for FMCA to better communicate which vendors will be attending the convention, as well as the services that will be provided, and the schedule for installation, service, and/or maintenance. Those who have attended conventions in the past know which vendors normally show up at the event ready to install aftermarket add-ons or perform some type of service. With better advertising, more members might choose to attend a convention so they can have this work done. Most of the people in the focus group were unaware of the variety of items sold and installed and the number of services performed on motorhome components.
When we got to the topic of recruiting new members, someone suggested having FMCA produce a CD about the advantages of joining, with an invitation to visit FMCA’s Web site. I found it interesting that the Marketing Strategy Committee has been working on a similar idea. This helps to justify our efforts in this area.
I was so impressed with the information and ideas shared during this forum that I have asked Don Eversmann to set up a boomer focus group at the 80th International Convention in St. Paul this July. And while I’m talking about it, let me invite you to plan now to attend the convention, July 14 through 17, whether you’re a boomer or not. The registration form for the “Navigate To The North State” convention appears elsewhere in this magazine, or you can register online at FMCA.com. Learn more about the many things to see and do in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area by reading the article in this issue titled “A Terrific Twin City,” starting on page 84.
Peace and safe travels to all.