For Diane Miller, the appeal of being a meeting planner is in the variety of challenges and responsibilities the job entails — sometimes, all hitting at once.
“It's like a puzzle — you put it all together,” says the senior administrative coordinator and meeting arrangements coordinator for the General Secretary's Office in the Church of the Nazarene, Kansas City, Mo. “It's got its high moments and its frustrating moments. But seeing it all flow the way you dream is the fun part. You get to work with interesting people; it's challenging, it's stretching.”
Oh, and one more thing, she adds, laughing, “It's humbling!”
What about overwhelming?
“Of course!” Miller says. “Doesn't every meeting planner feel that way at some time?”
Every meeting planner in the business — religious or any other industry — can probably relate to Miller's favorite way of coping with the inevitable waves of stress that big, complicated events bring their way.
“Chocolate is always good,” Miller says, letting slip a trade secret. “You take a step back. You take a deep breath. You ask for some strength and guidance from God. And sometimes you have to walk away from it for a few hours and attack again with renewed strength.”
With her dual titles, you can imagine that Miller does a lot. She says that her planning duties start with planning an annual leadership retreat for the denomination every February, and include the logistics of the Nazarene's annual board meeting and a new district superintendents' orientation every September. The latter could be especially troublesome this fall because the church's administration is slated to move into a new building about that same time.
The big dog of planning for the Church of the Nazarene is its General Assembly and Convention quadrennial event for as many as 30,000 attendees. The last quadrennial event was in 2005 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.
At the front end of the quadrennial are concurrent events for youth, missions, and the church's Sunday school departments. The youth and missions programs are legislative in nature; Sunday school is more of an educational/inspirational convention.
“One of the big events we have is a children's quiz,” Miller says. “We have people everywhere come to see that. Because of our location in Indianapolis last time, there were a lot of drive-ins.”
The three concurrent conventions start on a Wednesday; their business is concluded by Friday, with some events spilling over into Saturday and Sunday. The General Assembly, the legislative meeting that conducts the business of the church, starts Saturday with committee meetings and caucuses; on Sunday there is communion in the morning and two large worship services. Monday, general assembly business begins and runs through Wednesday or Thursday.
Attendance grows until it peaks on Saturday, dropping off as the business of the Nazarene becomes the focus.
A churchwide service project called “One Heart, Many Hands” is another big draw, typically attracting the participation of more than 1,000 attendees. “We do projects within the city,” Miller says. “We not only take from the city, its convention center, hotels, and restaurants, but we give back, too.”
In 2009, the Church of the Nazarene will stage its General Assembly and Convention in Orlando, Fla., using the North/South building at the Orange County Convention Center.
The Orlando logistics may have Miller reaching for the chocolate more than once.
“The Orlando site was already selected when I took this position. This is the first event we've done on a flat floor. Usually we've used an arena for our worship service,” Miller says.
The plans for Orlando include 120,000 square feet of exhibit space at the convention center. And Miller has blocked more than 4,700 hotel rooms, up from 4,300 in Indianapolis.
Miller stepped into her current position in May 2007, but she has been a fixture at Nazarene headquarters for almost a quarter of a century.
“The first meeting I did was for a council meeting of 25 people,” she says. “I was in our youth department, and I did three youth congresses and site selection on a fourth. I've worked on the exhibit hall. I've been exposed to a lot of different facets of general assemblies and conventions.”
She gives credit for her smooth transition into this job to a trio of influences: her predecessor, D'wayne Leatherman; co-worker Judy Veigl; and her boss, David Wilson.
“A number of years ago, I was talking with my boss at that time,” Miller recalls. “He said, ‘What would your dream job be?’ We had just finished a youth congress, and I said, ‘To do this all the time.’ It's a gift. A lot of people do jobs all the time because it's a job. I'm getting to do something that I love to do and that I enjoy.”
The Green Meeting Industry Council has grown 116 percent in the past year, to 147 members, and is expected to become an official member of the Convention Industry Council after a vote this month.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has proposed new regulations that could severely affect the cruise industry. The proposal requires foreign-flagged cruise ships departing a U.S. port to spend 48 hours in a foreign port during each cruise and 24 hours in a foreign port for every two days in a U.S. port.
The board of directors of the Convention Industry Council has appointed Colin C. Rorrie Jr., PhD, CAE, interim president and CEO of the CIC, effective immediately. He fills the position left vacant by Mary Power last May.
New technologies developed for meeting planning come on the scene with great frequency. To stay on top of it all, visit the Meeting Planner Tech Guide at http://meetingsnet.com/technology.
Born and raised: Miller is a Kansas City native; “My father was a minister, so we moved frequently. My grandparents lived in Kansas City, so I spent a lot of summers here. My mother was a teacher. Kansas City is more home than any place I've been.”
Education: She studied at MidAmerica Nazarene University, Olathe, Kan.; currently studying for her CMP
Hobbies: reading, music, theater, and her mini-dachshund, Mea