I am just coming off a week at the annual conference of the Religious Conference Management Association, for which we publish its official magazine—Religious Conference Manager. http://www.rcmaweb.org/AboutRCMA.aspx RCMA is a professional, nonprofit, multifaith organization for individuals who plan and manage conferences, conventions, assemblies, retreats, and other meetings for their religious organizations.

We produce three conference newspapers at the event, this year held in Kansas City, Mo., a challenging feat for those of us used to more leisurely magazine or nearly daily deadlines for Web news. At the conference, we cover all sessions, gathering news and reporting on site, taking photos, writing, editing, working with a remote art director on layout, and proofing pages via PDF files. It’s all sent off to a local printer by 6:30 p.m. each evening and delivered to the convention center hot off the press by 7 a.m. the next morning.
It’s light years from the way we used to produce it when Sue Hatch (now executive editor of our Web site) and I created RCM’s dailies some 20 years ago. In those days we had to run to the one-hour photo shop to have our film developed and write during the day on rented desktop computers. We drove the floppy disks and photo prints to the printing plant, often navigating our way through the less populated areas of whatever city we were in—to sit with the typesetters to fit type, caption photos, and proof pages as they printed them out. Those evenings we sometimes got back close to midnight, exhausted and spent. Your mind and body are constantly in motion—not unlike the hearty meeting manager who gets up for the 6 a.m. pre-con each morning of her meeting and doesn’t stop until after the last event each night.

With our digital cameras, laptops, and FTPs it’s now a heck of lot easier and more efficient to produce a conference newspaper. But there is still something incredibly rewarding, when hand-delivering the dailies before the general session each morning, to see people devouring the stories and photos from the previous day. There’s an instant gratification that we never get when we mail a magazine that ends up on your desk a week later or when one of our e-newsletters lands in your inbox.

I hadn’t been to RCMA’s conference to work on the dailies in many years, but I was thrilled to be back. I rejoiced in reconnecting with old friends, met many new people, but had hoped to see more younger attendees. So RCMA, like many other associations, is working to grow its membership base, including reaching out to engage people who are just beginning to plan faith-based meetings.
And remember to thank that hard-working publications staff at your next meeting!