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Judges Hospitality – An Essential Element for Creating a Successful Show

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106 – October, 2014

By Peri Norman

What can I tell you? It was a dog club meeting. Blah, blah, blah… As the old saying goes, everyone has an opinion and most of them… well never mind. So we were discussing the Welcome Reception for the judges ad nauseam; the room, the food, the wine, the signage, the decorations, the size of the tables. Finally, I looked at a couple of the biggest complainers and said what I believe (I always tell the truth because that is the way my Mother raised me). “I don’t mean to be rude, but it is not about you. It’s not about the show chair, the photographer, the super or any of the committee members. It’s about the judges. It is a Welcome Event for them.” The reply left me speechless. “I don’t give a s#*! whether the judges are happy or not. They come. They get paid. And they do their job.” Gobsmacked! I was just completely gobsmacked!

Although we don’t often think of them this way, putting on a dog show is a business. The committee is responsible for making the best use of available resources to produce an excellent event. Of course, the “best” measure of success is the number of entries. We know that shows that are historically poorly managed, in a less than desirable venue, have lousy parking or weather, or other on-going issues are going to have a tough time competing for entry dollars in this economy with shows that are, for whatever sets of reasons, perceived by the exhibitor to be more desirable. This includes a panel of well-respected and personable judges.

Judges are, essentially, independent contractors. That is different than an employee in some technical ways, but I don’t think that it really affects the concept that it is simply good business to “take good care” of the people who are working for you. A quick Google search turned up a plethora of mini-articles about this subject. Here’s one of my favorites quotes.

“First and foremost, if you’re in the business of making money – whether you’re a for-profit company or a non-profit raising money for a cause – you should know that happy and engaged employees will make your company more profitable.” Dr. Noelle Nelson, author of Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy, references a Jackson Organization study in the book that showed “companies that effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity & assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t.”

Given the amount of writing produced in the various dog magazines, the amount of whining that occurs on and off the internet, and the number of reminders and observations that judge’s receive to assist them in performing their job well, I don’t think there is any question that judges who perform their jobs efficiently, carefully, and with a good attitude are critical to a successful show. In fact, excellent judges are of inestimable value and part of the prestige of shows like Westminster, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, and a limited number of shows that are perpetually on the lists for Best Show in the various award competitions.

I want to add a little caveat here and acknowledge that on any and every day, an individual judge is totally responsible for his or her own attitude. We make a personal decision to be at our very best every single time we walk into the ring to juggle the myriad tasks required to “simply” judge the dogs. Now, I will let you in on a little secret. Judges talk to each other. We talk when we are on panels together. We have chat groups as well. We talk about clubs and shows and where we really love to go and, in some cases, where we refuse to go ever again. There is no question that an attentive and thoughtful committee can make it easier for a judge to be at their best. The efforts of a knowledgeable and helpful committee should not be underestimated, and they are deeply appreciated. Here are some suggestions:

Communicate clearly. From the very first contact that is made asking about availability and fees, the appropriate committee member should clearly communicate the essential show information including dates, location, any restrictions and other pertinent information. Be sure to give the judge your contact information so they know who to call if additional questions or concerns arise. The contract should be straightforward and supply information with regard to the club’s expectations regarding expenses and related details. Be sure to include a self-addressed stamp envelope for the return. The hospitality letter should be sent in plenty of time for the judge to arrange for reasonably priced transportation. It should be clear if the judge is to reserve their own room at the host hotel or if the committee will be doing that for them. Likewise, ground transportation information should be supplied in sufficient detail to put the judge at ease, not worried about being stuck at the airport. While the entire packet from the local Chamber of Commerce is not necessary, information about local restaurants and sites, as well as important information on the climate and normal weather patterns are most appreciated. Most clubs will ask for the judge to return a hospitality form so that they have the judge’s travel information and expected arrival and departure times. Preferred beverages, dietary restrictions, RSVPs for dinners and receptions, and emergency contact information are also commonly included on these forms. Once again, accurate contact information for multiple committee members is important.

Provide comfortable accommodations. Although some of the larger shows often utilize lovely upscale hotels, this is not a requirement. I have spent plenty of restful nights in a La Quinta or Country Inn and Suites or other “mid-level” hotel. It does have to be clean. It is helpful if the committee and staff have worked together to assure that judges are in an area of the hotel that is relatively quiet (not overlooking the pool filled with youngsters celebrating their soccer win into the middle of the night). Both the property itself and the surrounding area should be reasonably safe and secure.

Feed your judges well. Provide both time for and access to a healthy breakfast. I know some people just don’t eat much early in the morning. Others function best with a good-sized breakfast with a quality protein source. Ring hospitality should certainly include plenty of water and requested beverages appropriate to the weather. It’s never a bad idea to have a bowl of whole fruit and/or some granola bars available so that a judge can take something with them for a mid-morning snack. Lunch should include a variety of foods. Mindfulness of dietary restrictions noted on the hospitality sheets is deeply appreciated. Please make sure that food served at lunch is fresh and maintained at an appropriate temperature until immediately prior to serving. It does not have to be catered. Some of the best lunches are put together by club members with favorite “traditional” recipes. Some shows like to schedule lunches for 45 minutes. I prefer an hour. Remember we are often taking pictures well into our lunchtime and really, fifteen minutes is not going to make or break your show tear down. Different clubs handle dinner between shows in different ways. Some of my favorites are organized by club members in a hotel meeting room. Other clubs take judges out to a local restaurant. Still others leave judges to choose their own restaurants and company. Any of these options are fine, just be clear about what will and will not be covered by the club. Do be certain that judges have an opportunity to have something to eat that does not come out of a vending machine on the night of their arrival. Nothing is worse than hours of delayed flights and shuttle drop off at a hotel with no restaurants in sight.

Make some special effort(s) to let your judges know that you appreciate their hard work. A Welcome Reception is lovely. It gives judges the opportunity to get acquainted with committee members and visit with each other. This can be particularly helpful if you have a couple of newer judges on the panel. It can also serve as an opportunity to introduce people the judges should know; show chairs, AKC Field representatives, transportation chairs and the club treasurer should all be included. A gift bag or an item with your club logo is also terrific. I have a ball cap from Richland Kennel Club and a vest from Gallatin Dog Club that bring back terrific memories every time I wear them.

There are many suggestions that could be added to this list, but they all will come back to the basic tenets of clear communication, careful listening and attention to basic principles of mutual respect and appreciation. Take good care of your judges and they will make you look good!

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Posted by on Aug 13 2020. Filed under Current Articles, Editorial, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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