A self-described member of the group of people who don't know how to take vacations, Dennis Williams is not likely to take time off on a whim to visit hotels or convention sites.

So those who find him “on vacation” may want to know that he is scoping out their facilities for future reference.

“I don't like to sign a contract for a place I have not stayed in,” says Williams. He and his wife, Cornelia, will go to check out a site and make a mini-vacation of it, spending two to three days on a site. “My wife is very helpful. She sees things I'd never see.”

As executive administrator for the North American Professors of Christian Education, he plans a 250-member annual convention for each October. The association is made up of Christian education instructors at colleges, theological seminaries, and graduate schools. Because of its size, the convention can be held in one hotel.

“The hotels we've selected the last several years have been contacts I've made at RCMA,” says Williams, who became a member of the RCMA board in January.

Valuable Experience

To the RCMA board position, Williams brings more than 20 years of convention-planning experience as well as a decade of RCMA membership.

“I think, hopefully, that I can give suggestions and ideas for additional tutorials” at RCMA conventions. He also can help with networking — which is what RCMA is all about, he adds. “Having been in the business for a long time, I have expertise in running small conferences, rather than huge, and I can help to bring more people into the organization.”

For the past eight years, Williams has worked in Louisville, Ky., as dean of Institutional Assessment for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which means that he is in charge of all accreditation for the institution. He is also a professor of leadership and Christian ministry.

Williams says he appreciates RCMA's professional development and networking opportunities. His particular interest is in legal and contract seminars, and he says the knowledge he gained through RCMA has helped him to point out potential problems.

He knew RCMA would be helpful when he attended his first conference. “If you want to learn how to run a conference, watch how they run their conference,” Williams said. “It's a first-class conference.”

The networking saves him a lot of time. First, he meets hotel representatives at RCMA and develops a relationship. “The other thing I like about RCMA is when I decide on a site, I can contact the national hotel office, CVBs, and say ‘Here's my RCMA profile.’ I then receive an enormous amount of help from the hotel staff that aids in my planning,” he says.

It crosses one “to-do” off his list of conference planning. “I try to be very detailed and make sure I can anticipate problems,” Williams says.

Good Track Record

That diligence has paid off because Williams “has a pretty good track record for 25 years,” he says. There have been just a few glitches.

Once, in Vail, Colo., Williams found out on arrival that half the hotel was under renovation. It didn't affect the group's stay, “but had I known, I would have looked someplace else,” he says.

Williams like to make sure a property is well-maintained. That's why he won't take a conference to a place he has not stayed.

Fortunately, Williams and his wife love to travel. It's one of his few hobbies.

The couple recently were in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and had a day to be shown around, so Williams called the Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. Now he's considering the site for the 2004 convention.

“I'm always saying, ‘Would this be a nice place for us to go?’”