California's Silicon Valley region revels in the spirit of innovation and change; it's an area that is teeming with organizations and individuals who embrace change, growth, and improvement. That attitude provided the setting for “Quest for the Best,” the 34th RCMA World Conference and Exposition, held January 31 through February 3 in downtown San Jose.

RCMA 2006 was a wonderful experience, packed with memorable entertainers and speakers, and filled with valuable information that its attendees will put to good use.

Getting Started

The 2006 RCMA conference more than lived up to its theme. RCMA is the only conference developed specifically to meet the needs of religious meeting planners, and the general session speakers, tutorial leaders, attendees, and exhibitors all showed how they are ready to embrace their own personal and professional quests for the best.

By noon Tuesday of the conference, RCMA's participants in the Behind-the-Scenes experiences already had gained valuable insights 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 248 members took advantage of that opportunity. Several collections of enthusiastic RCMA members added to their meeting-planning knowledge through Tuesday morning's Behind-the-Scenes experiences.

The McEnery Convention Center, an advertising agency, a public relations firm, a video production firm, and hotel offered valuable experiences to learn about housekeeping, meeting-room setup, floral arrangement, food and beverage preparation, media relations, video production, and more.

Many attendees also had the opportunity to see sights on Tuesday afternoon's tours, which included the History Park, the Winchester House, and the Tech Museum.

All of RCMA came together for the first time Tuesday night, kicking up their heels at the Grand Reception, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The fun-filled, Western-themed evening included panning for gold, a chili tasting, carnival games, and musical entertainment.

Tuesday had set the stage most successfully for Wednesday's full day and night of activities.

Embrace Adventure

Mark Victor Hansen is an expert at setting and achieving ridiculous-sounding goals. He wants others to do the same. Hansen, the speaker at RCMA's Wednesday opening general session, gained fame through the “Chicken Soup” series of books.

He said the goal with the “Chicken Soup” series of books is to change the world, one story at a time, and the books have done that. The books' stories empower others to change the world, and the success of the books has enabled Hansen to carry out his generous philanthropic visions.

Hansen said all people “need a dream and need a team” to accomplish great things; he urged RCMA attendees to schedule time to think and to keep an idea notebook with them at all times. Hansen told the story of when Oprah Winfrey worked with Steven Spielberg on the movie “The Color Purple.” Spielberg carried an idea notebook, and during that time wrote that he wanted to form a film company named Dreamworks. Winfrey asked if she could “copy” Spielberg. He said yes, and she wrote that she wanted to form a company called “Harpo,” which is Oprah spelled backward. Spielberg and Winfrey both realized their dreams, and Hansen said the critical step for both was putting their dreams on paper.

“The minute you write down your goals,” he said, you're on your way to achievement.

The keynote speech followed a talent-laden, fast-paced opening to the general session. The pounding, pulsing beat of drummers began the morning session, setting a high-energy mood that was handed off to soloist Sandy Griffith, who sang “Quest for the Best” to the tune of “Simply the Best.” “What sets you apart is you work from the heart,” she sang to the attendees.

Tenor Adrian Rocha, accompanied by violinist Jessica Cole, followed with a stirring rendition of “You Raise Me Up.” A thrilling acrobatic performance came next, filling the hall with “ooos” and “ahhhs” as the young athletes performed tests of flexibility, strength, and timing.

RCMA President Tom Jackson then welcomed the attendees and remarked that the acrobats set a fine example with the way they accomplished their tasks with agility and precision.

A “Stomp”-inspired musical rendering of a site inspection came next and set the stage for RCMA Executive Director DeWayne Woodring. Woodring and the RCMA Board of Directors made all of the attendees “angels in training,” handing out glowing halos to the assembly. The result was a ballroom filled with shining rings of light, ready for the conference ahead.

After Hansen's speech, performers Rocha and, Griffith returned to the stage with the Immanuel Baptist Church Ensemble, singing “Can't You Feel a Brand New Day.” The vocalists brought the attendees to their feet and led them out of the ballroom and onto the Expo floor, where the opportunity for new possibilities beckoned.

Waking up Our Minds

Drawing on his experiences as a former religious meeting planner and throwing in a mix of humorous anecdotes about fathers and sons, psychologist Terry L. Paulson entertained RCMA's Wednesday luncheon attendees.

Paulson touched on a number of constants in the lives of planners, including change and its inevitability.

“Then there are the people who love change,” he said. “They start rumors about change even if there is no change, just to see what happens!”

Our responsibility, according to Paulson, is to understand that change is always here. “I went back to speak at the hospital I was born in,” he said. “They did not remember me! Of course, it's now a nursing home.”

Ben Vereen Dazzles

On Wednesday evening, renowned entertainer Ben Vereen drew energy from the audience and returned it with interest during a stirring performance of classic songs at the San Jose Civic Auditorium.

Accompanied by his gifted four-piece backup band, Vereen showed off the breadth of his talent and experience, bringing the audience to its feet with “Stand By Me.” He also spoke passionately of the importance of the work that religious meeting planners do, bringing people together to “share the light.”

As the concert producer urged Vereen to bring the hour-and-half performance to a close, Vereen smiled and said, “I guess I'll sing faster.”

Center of the Action

The expo floor, always a favorite meeting place for attendees, was abuzz with associate-member 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 300 booths. Many attendees had studied the December issue of Religious Conference Manager, which contains the complete exhibitors list, so that they could target the people they wanted to visit. Others strolled the aisles in search of the new venue that could be the right fit for their meeting.

Equally important to attendees were the invaluable tutorials, held Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. The tutorials offered advice on an array of topics, including contracts, putting CVBs to work for your meetings, and marketing.

RCMA members were attentive and involved, taking notes, asking questions, and sharing ideas, and they left the sessions anxious to put the advice to use. By Thursday evening, attendees were discussing with fellow planners the valuable information they had learned.

Honor Bestowed

RCMA gathered Thursday evening for the annual gala.

The highlight came when RCMA President Tom Jackson, United Pentecostal Church International, presented the 2006 President's Award. The honor went to Sally Gardiner, Daytona Beach Area CVB. The President's Award is given annually to an individual who has rendered distinguished service to RCMA and to the field of religious conference management.

In his remarks, Gardiner was cited for her many years of service to RCMA as a tutorial leader, member of the association's board of directors, and for the professional service she affords the people of many denominations of the world.

Entertainer Russ Merlin capped the evening with his unique, uproarious interactive entertainment, which left audience members crying tears of laughter.

Juggling Skills Tested

The 34th annual RCMA came to a close Friday morning with breakfast, the annual business meeting, and general session sponsored by next year's RCMA host, Louisville, Ky., which set an exciting mood for the morning with a horse-racing theme, complete with a virtual race and a trumpeter from Churchill Downs.

Entertainer Dave Finnigan then stretched the audience by teaching them to juggle in less than 30 minutes. The interactive, energizing session was the perfect close for what had been an exciting quest in the West.


In his remarks Friday morning at RCMA 2006, Executive Director DeWayne S. Woodring reported that the organization has stood tall throughout the nation's recent economic downturn:

  • RCMA has experienced 24 consecutive years of membership growth. Membership stands at an all-time high, with 3,394 members.
  • The expo for RCMA 2006 sold out in one day.
  • A record 248 attendees took advantage of this year's Behind-the-Scenes experiences.

Grand Rapids in 2009

The RCMA Board of Directors has chosen Grand Rapids, Mich., as the site for its 2009 Annual World Conference and Exposition. The board met while in San Jose to make its final decision. Before heading to Grand Rapids, RCMA will come together in Louisville in 2007 and Orlando in 2008.

Thank You

RCMA extends grateful thanks to this year's sponsors:

  • Adam's Mark Hotels & Resorts
  • Aramark
  • Atlantic City CVA
  • Biltmore Hotel & Suites Silicon Valley
  • Buffalo/Niagara CVB
  • Centerplate
  • Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts
  • Crowne Plaza San Jose Downtown
  • Dayton/Montgomery County CVB
  • Daytona Beach CVB & Ocean Center
  • Digitell Inc.
  • Dolce Hayes Mansion
  • Embassy Suites Hotel Santa Clara
  • The Fairmont San Jose
  • GES Exposition Services
  • Greater Birmingham CVB
  • Greater Cincinnati CVB
  • Greater Houston CVB
  • Greater Louisville CVB
  • Greater St. Charles (Mo.) CVB
  • Henderson (Nev.) CVB
  • Hilton San Jose & Towers
  • Hilton Santa Clara
  • Holiday Inn Great America
  • Hyatt Regency Santa Clara
  • Illinois Council of CVB's
  • Interior Plant Design
  • Lexington CVB
  • Marriott San Jose
  • Mobile Area CVB
  • Oklahoma City CVB
  • pc/nametag
  • Paramount's Gr. America Theme Park
  • RegOnline
  • Richmond Metropolitan CVB
  • Rochester, MN, CVB
  • San Francisco CVB
  • San Jose CVB
  • Santa Clara CVB
  • Springfield, MO, CVB
  • Sierra Suites Hotel
  • The Sainte Claire, a Larkspur Hotel
  • Team San Jose
  • TEC Productions
  • The Plaza Suites
  • Tourism Toronto
  • Valley Forge CVB
  • Virginia Beach CVB

RCMA Board of Directors

Four RCMA members were appointed to three-year terms that begin in 2006. They are: Ruth Adair, Triedstone Full Gospel Baptist Church; Harry Schmidt, Christian Life College; Melvin Worthington, International Association of Free Will Baptists; and Martin Ytreberg, Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The RCMA board officers are: Tom Jackson, United Pentecostal Church International, president; Marcia Bullock, Jamaica Tourist Board, vice president; Worthington, secretary-treasurer; and DeWayne Woodring, executive director.

Continuing on the board are: Michael Butts, Visit Charlotte; Marjorie Homer, The Salvation Army; Ronald Kelly, The Wesleyan Church; Jack Stone, Church of the Nazarene; Jackie Walker, Church of God; and Cynthia Winter, National Council on Family Relations.