In the months leading up to RCMA 2009, attendees fretted about January weather in the host city, Grand Rapids, Mich. But a funny thing happened on the way to the conference: Grand Rapids had better weather than most of the United States during the week of RCMA. The Michigan city enjoyed the last word on weather.
Grand Rapids leaders told attendees that “the climate of our city is not determined by our weather.” Indeed, Grand Rapidians' sunny outlook was on display all week through outstanding, friendly, sincere service. RCMA experienced the warmth of Grand Rapids during a busy schedule of education, motivation, entertainment, and networking.
RCMA 2009 featured captivating speakers, an impressive array of tutorials, terrific evening entertainment, and hands-on learning opportunities.
Diving Into Digital
By noon Tuesday, participants in RCMA's Behind-the-Scenes Experiences already had gained valuable insight into many areas of meeting planning. RCMA is the only organization that provides attendees with the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes to make a meeting happen, and members took full advantage of that opportunity at venues around the city.
A dozen RCMA members made the digital media plunge, creating a blog, a short video, and a photographic slide show of their Behind-the-Scenes Experience at the Grand Rapids Community Media Center. The purpose of the exercise was to expose planners to the wealth of free services and to the ease of use of multimedia.
Among the other Behind-the-Scenes was a visit to the Grand Rapids Press newspaper, where attendees created the front page of a newspaper and enjoyed a tour of one of the most highly regarded printing facilities in the world.
Tuesday afternoon, RCMA members had their choice of Grand Rapids city tours, which included stops at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
Tuesday night's reception, “Carnival On the Beach,” was held at DeVos Place and gave attendees the chance to enjoy fellowship in a festive atmosphere of games, activities, and even a Ferris wheel.
Wednesday morning's keynote speaker, Stef du Plessis, told the tale of a troubled man seeking enlightenment. He visited a wise man and said that he was not happy with where he was living. He did not like his neighbors and wanted to move to a nearby town where the people were better. The wise man told him that nothing would change for him in the new location because people everywhere are the same; wherever you go, there you are.
The point is that we take ourselves with us, and with us comes all our baggage.
“Let go of what is not yours,” advised du Plessis, who traveled 30 hours by air from his home in Johannesburg, South Africa, to be with RCMA. “Make peace with those you need to make peace with and get on with your life.”
Earlier in the general session, Doug Small of the Grand Rapids CVB greeted RCMA. “I offer a resounding welcome to the best of the best in conference planning.”
Put to the Test
Class was in session at the Thursday morning general session — distinguishedfrom the “University of Expanded Knowledge” convened to test attendees' collective meeting-planning expertise.
Using audience-response technology, the crowd answered nearly 40 questions posed by the “dean” of the university, Edward E. Scannell, CMP, CSP (Center for Professional Development and Training). Questions covered the width of meeting-planning issues, including, , logistics, and more.
The keen insights included this one on contracts from the “professor” of law, Jonathan T. Howe (Howe, & Hutton Ltd.): As long as there is intent, “You can write aon the side of a cow.” Howe's mini-lecture on contracts was in response to the question of whether a contract signed by both parties and written on a napkin is enforceable. The legal scholar also offered the student body this piece of wisdom: “My definition of a contract? It's a self-inflicted wound.”
The conference's luncheon speakers, Bobbie Staten and Jackie Pflug, touched their listeners in very different ways. Staten delivered her wisdom through humor, while Pflug shared the lessons she learned as the survivor of a harrowing hijacking in 1985. “Strange as it sounds, I feel that I am truly blessed,” Pflug said. “What first appears in our lives as a major setback really tests our ability to grow.”
History, and Then Feats of Flexibility
Wednesday evening, attendees boarded buses for a two-part night of fun. The first stop was the Grand Rapids Public Museum, where attendees enjoyed the exhibit of collections A-Z, as well as a zoology exhibit, a display featuring regional wildlife, a display that explained the furniture-making history of the region, and more. Guests also were able to take a ride on the historic, 1928 Spillman Engineering Co. carousel.
The next stop was a performance at the Van Andel Arena by the New Shanghai Circus. The Asian acrobats awed the appreciative audience with daring demonstrations of flexibility, balance, strength, and timing.
Center of the Action
The expo floor, always a favorite meeting place for attendees, was abuzz with representatives from convention and visitors bureaus, hotels, convention centers, campus and nonprofit facilities, and the full range of religious-meetings service providers. The sold-out expo offered more than 350 booths.
Equally important to attendees were the tutorials, held Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. The tutorials offered advice on an array of topics. RCMA members were great students, taking notes, asking questions, and sharing ideas, and they left the sessions anxious to put the advice to use.
‘My Treat and My Honor’
RCMA gathered Thursday evening for the annual gala.
RCMA President Tom Jackson presented the 2008 President's Award to Jackie Walker, convention-meeting planner, Church of God Executive Office, Lawrenceville, Georgia. Each year the President's Award is given to an individual who has rendered distinguished service to RCMA and the field of religious conference management.
“It's my treat and my honor to be part of this for now 19 years,” Walker said in accepting the award. “I believe in this organization, I believe in you, and I believe in our future. Thank you.”
The evening was capped by dazzling renditions of Broadway hits performed by regional vocalists Kelly Carey, Cici Gramer, Larry Young, and Stephen Gray.
Food for Hungry Children
RCMA came to a close Friday morning with a breakfast hosted by the Fort Worth, Texas, CVB, which will welcome RCMA for its 38th world conference January 26-29, 2010. RCMA conducted its annual business meeting, followed by speaker Bryan Townsend.
At the meeting, RCMA Executive Director DeWayne S. Woodring announced that RCMA again has donated $100,000 to the World Food Programme to feed hungry children worldwide. It is the fourth consecutive year that RCMA has made a $100,000 gift to the WFP.
As the meeting closed, bright sunshine accompanied the attendees as they began their journeys home; the warmth and brilliance of Grand Rapids never stopped.Continue on Page 2
Sidebar #1: Voices from Grand Rapids:
“What did you learn at RCMA that you will use in your job?”
The seminars were phenomenal. This was my first year, so [the experience] was invaluable. I took the Behind-the-Scenes at the convention center. It was eye-opening. Now I know how much behind-the-scenes there is.
The Wesleyan Church
Behind-the-Scenes with the ad agency was wonderful.
One thing that I learned about is Web sites. We are two years behind and trying to update. [I learned that you need to know] what will attract our people and about the legal issues of a Web site. We're starting over from scratch and hiring a new designer. We're aiming to the youth, so we're looking at blogs and Twitter and knowing the legal ramifications of those applications.
Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise
It was an excellent conference. The tutorials were great. The leadership group was excellent. I would wish for more days to attend the tutorials. I would have loved to attend every one of them.
The Behind-the-Scenes that was done at the Amway Hotel was a wonderful experience. They touched on every department in the hotel: the finance department, the kitchen, housekeeping, catering.
We really got to see how they work together and how all those pieces work together to make events successful.
Conference Meeting Planner
National Council on Family Relations Minnesota Christian Convention
I was reminded again of the power of WOW! Participatory elements are critical to the success of a program, an exhibit hall, or a reception. I saw that while:
Watching people stand in line to make a music video with two friends at the opening night reception;
Seeing folks desiring to play video games at booths in the exhibition hall;
Being drawn in to have a portrait photo taken after registration; and
Participating in the “breakfast orchestra” playing the musical tubes on our table.
When people are actively involved, they are engaged. And when they are engaged, they are happy.
Youth for Christ/USA
RCMA in the Future
During Friday's breakfast, Fort Worth, Texas, CVB President and CEO David DuBois (above) invited attendees to visit his city for RCMA's 38th conference, January 26-29, 2010.
The RCMA Board of Directors has selected Kansas City, Mo., as the location for RCMA 2012. RCMA will convene in Tampa, Fla., in 2011.
Sidebar #2: RCMA 2009 Sponsors
RCMA extends grateful thanks to this year's sponsors:
- Art Craft Display
- Amway Hotel Collection
- Branson/Lakes Area CVB and Participating Partners
- Cancun Convention Bureau
- Conference Resource
- Dayton/Montgomery County CVB
- Detroit Metro CVB
- Fort Worth CVB
- Gail Andrus Travel
- Grand Rapids/Kent County CVB
- Greater Houston CVB
- Jamaica Tourist Board
- Lexington CVB
- Norfolk CVB
- Oklahoma City CVB
- Palm Beach County CVB
- Peoria Area CVB
- Richmond Metropolitan CVB
- Springfield, MO, CVB
- Valley Forge CVB
- Willowbank Hotel & Conference Facility, Bermuda