Mickie O'Donnell Gutierrez

Executive Director Lord and King Associates, Lombard, Ill.

In the past eight years, we've held our conference at local churches. Last year, for the first time, we went to a hotel. It was fabulous. We had a fantastic response. The conference is specific to a model of education, so the churches we used were models, doing what we taught. The difficulty was the lack of meeting space. I really needed more room, and staying in one hotel meant that we were able to do evening events, including a concert one evening.

Attendance increased, and the hotel worked beautifully. I didn't pay for banquet space. The hotel provided grab-and-go lunches at different spots of the building.

Going to the hotel was a risk, but I got my room nights.

Liz Perch

Conference Coordinator Friends General Conference Philadelphia

The biggest change we have made is to institute an abuse-prevention policy that includes doing criminal background checks of all our volunteer youth workers. This policy was implemented at the behest of our insurance carrier, but it is something we should have been thinking about and doing anyway.

I can't yet tell you all the results, since the change was made after our annual conference. We have added staff time to deal with the added checking and paperwork for the coming year. We anticipate that we will need to do some gentle soothing of volunteers who have been with the program for some time and may feel resentful that they must go through a more formal screening process.

We will also be adding training for staff at the annual conference, as well as developing and implementing procedures to protect children, young people, and staff, and developing a procedure to use should an incident be reported.

We understand that in communicating the change to volunteers and participants we will need to be clear that it is not in reaction to an incident, while not blaming the insurance carrier.

William B. Potter

Chapter Services/State Director Business Men's Fellowship USA Roach, Mo.

We have shortened the meetings. We've also put more activity into the meetings and cut some of the meals. We had three meals a day, and it felt like too much food for the day. We cut out some and have coffee breaks.

We usually have a speaker in the evenings and groups sessions. We've tried to cut back and let people enjoy the city and its amenities. Attendees have responded well. They've brought their families. We were able to lower fees. If you get a speaker, they can also teach a seminar. That attracts more people, because they can have a question-and-answer time.

If you cut down on activities, you give people time to relax and do other things.

Elaine Schwartz

Director of Communication Resources Southeastern Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Atlanta

I've introduced more multimedia. In the past, we've had large screens in our plenary sessions, and this past year I introduced monitors in the public areas and captioning for the hearing-impaired. The monitors were in the registration area where folks gathered outside.

The meeting I plan is mostly a business meeting, so if they were outside the hall, nobody had any idea what was going on. The monitors were wildly successful. I had a couple of them this year, and plan to have more next year. Captioning this year was big thing, even for people who are not hearing-impaired. In the big halls, you can't hear everything, so they could see what they missed on the monitor.

The really nice thing about it was that they provided us with a transcript afterward, which was very helpful. I posted it on our Web site. There was some cost involved. But the cost for captioning … the benefit so outweighed the cost. Overall it was pretty inexpensive. It was very worth it. Participants really appreciated it.