Envision an event at which your mind is challenged, your spirit is lifted, and friendships are deepened. Envision a meeting where the spirit of goodwill and the desire to improve permeates every activity. It's an appealing vision, isn't it? In fact, the vision is of RCMA, and you will be able to experience that vision in January at RCMA 2004.

The 32nd RCMA World Conference and Exposition is expected to draw more than 1,300 meeting professionals to Pittsburgh from January 27 to 30, 2004. The meeting is constructed to help religious meeting planners like you increase your knowledge and skills. As an attendee, you can expect to develop strategic partnerships with all types of vendors and to learn ways to improve your performance through the finest lineup of tutorials RCMA has offered. You also will enjoy wonderful fellowship.

One of the best parts of the RCMA experience, as so many members have discovered, is that this event makes learning enjoyable. You'll be inspired by general session speakers. You'll improve your meeting-planning skills at the tutorials, and you'll enjoy top-notch entertainment. But the one thing that attendees really cherish about RCMA, the thing that keeps them coming back year after year, is the connections they make with other members and associate members. You will make good friends.

Over the years, attendees have commented that the spirit and camaraderie at RCMA set it apart from other meeting planning events. The opportunities for professional growth are available everywhere: in the hotel lobby, at wonderful luncheons, during breaks in tutorials, or on the way to evening events.

In Pittsburgh

On Tuesday morning, a unique experience awaits as conference attendees go behind the scenes to explore the inner operation of hotels, a convention center, a leading creative advertising firm, and media production studios. This is your opportunity to gain hands-on experience under the tutelage of leading professionals. This RCMA exclusive event has attracted thousands through the years, all of whom have expanded their knowledge in religious conference management. The learning experience begins at 8 a.m. and concludes by 1:30 p.m. Complimentary breakfast and luncheon are served to participants, who register in advance.

Once a fort in the wilderness, Pittsburgh is now one of “America's most livable cities.”

The Tuesday tour of Pittsburgh begins with a delightful array of old and new architecture. From startling glass towers to grand stonework, to the sprinkling of historic churches nestled between skyscrapers, the city's past and present are told through the buildings that line its zigzagging streets.

Pass through the Cultural District, over one of the Three Sisters Bridges, and enter the Historic Northside, where you will stop at the National Aviary, the country's premier bird park and home to more than 600 exotic birds, seen in natural habitats. Head upriver to Oakland, the center for medicine and education, and then on to Station Square and the top of Mount Washington for a spectacular view of the city's skyline.

Tuesday's events conclude with an RCMA tradition, the Grand Reception. This year the reception will be held at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Share a vision of the past as we mingle among towering dinosaurs, skeletons, mummies, and other treasures from ancient Egypt. Travel through history and view sparkling gems of yesteryear while dining from an array of tasty buffets and sharing in fellowship amid the grandeur of marbled columns of an era long past.

Opening Ceremonies and Expo 2004

The Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau is planning something very special for RCMA's 2004 opening ceremonies. A sensational extravaganza, featuring keynote speaker John Amatt, will energize you and fill you with anticipation for the rest of the week's events.

Then it's off to the Expo, which this year will have more than 300 booths, all staffed by knowledgeable suppliers who provide services and facilities for religious meetings. Again this year, booth space sold out almost as soon as the general mailing hit the post office — and for good reason.

Expo 2004 is your opportunity to make contacts, develop relationships, and get plenty of work done in a short period of time.

Visionary Learning

At the core of RCMA's mission are the valuable educational opportunities offered at its expert-led tutorials. This year's lineup continues the RCMA tradition of offering the finest breakout sessions anywhere. RCMA's 2004 tutorials ensure that there is something for everyone, from the first-time planner to the veteran professional.

For example, learn how to plan a large meeting by attending “The Intricacies and Logistics of Handling a Large Convention,” a session that will be led by a panel of meeting experts.

If you're interested in improving your work with contracts, attend “Achieving the Best of All Possible Worlds in Contracts,” led by Jeff Sacks, CMP, vice president, Midwest Region, Conferon Inc.

From site-selection tips to marketing strategies, resource management to budgeting, this year's tutorials will provide you with exactly what you need to make your meetings run smoother, cost less, and provide more for your attendees. (See the conference schedule that begins on page 35 for a complete listing of all the tutorials planned for 2004.)

Broadway-Bound

RCMA's evening entertainment always is special, and this year's will be, too. On Wednesday, RCMA attendees will be treated to an extraordinary event, the Broadway musical production of The Lion King.

On Thursday, wear your Sunday best and mix and mingle with industry professionals during the 32nd Annual Gala. This festive evening is always a conference highlight, featuring exquisite cuisine, the President's Award, and entertainment.

RCMA is a mountaintop experience every year. Be part of the vision in Pittsburgh in 2004.

Wednesday Keynote Speaker: John Amatt

For more than 30 years, John Amatt has led expeditions to remote regions of Northern Norway, Peru, Nepal, China, and Greenland; he has explored areas of the Arctic on six occasions, making many first ascents of previously unclimbed peaks. At the age of 20, Amatt spent two weeks lashed to tiny ledges while making the first ascent of Europe's highest and steepest mountain precipice, the 5,000 foot "Vertical Mile" Troll Wall in Norway.

In 1981, he was the leader of the first Canadian mountaineering expedition to Western China, which made a lightweight ascent of 24,757-foot Mount Muztagata, the highest peak in the world to have been ascended and descended entirely on skis.

More recently, Amatt fulfilled a lifelong dream by organizing and taking part in Canada's first successful expedition to reach the top of the world, the 29,028 foot summit of Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain.

Amatt's book One Step Beyond: Rediscovering the Adventure Attitude articulates his belief that humankind must apply the spirit of adventure to the challenges of daily life, if we are to cope with rapid change and convert it to our own advantage.

In his latest book, Straight to the Top and Beyond, he uses the metaphor of adventure to develop a nine-step approach for scaling the heights in today's unpredictable and rapidly changing global environments.

Thursday Speaker: Jeff Tobe

Certified speaking professional Jeff Tobe presents more than 100 programs a year. Jeff's background as an award-winning sales and marketing entrepreneur has made him the leading authority on change and creativity. Insider Magazine recently called him “The Guru of Creativity.” Readers of a meeting-industry publication voted Tobe “one of the top 15 speakers in North America” for 2001. His upbeat, participatory sessions will show you how to take a fresh approach to your work.

Tobe has helped thousands get outside their comfort zones to find new ways of approaching professional or personal challenges. His client list reads like a who's who in corporate America and Canada and includes Kraft Foods, IBM International, PepsiCo., Chase Manhattan, SunLife, and many others. Tobe owned his own promotional business for more than 10 years. During his last three years in that business, he won five International Golden Pyramid Awards for creativity in promotions.