It's said that the only constant in today's world is change, so it's appropriate that RCMA's 30th Anniversary Conference and Exposition has change — and celebration — as its focus. As RCMA marks a milestone anniversary, it will look to the future with the theme “Currents of Change,” which will energize and inspire.

RCMA is expected to draw more than 1,300 meeting professionals to Tampa, Fla., from January 29 to February 1, 2002. The meeting will help you increase your knowledge and skill with the people your meetings serve, develop strategic partnerships with vendors, and improve your performance through the finest lineup of tutorials RCMA has offered.

“I don't think we could have a location that's any better than Tampa. The people there are going all out to make it a great event. It should be record attendance for RCMA,” says Jack Stone, RCMA president and general secretary/HQ operations officer with the Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Mo.

“I gain a great deal of information in the tutorials that helps sharpen my skills,” says Hazel Porter, meeting coordinator for the Genesis Baptist Church Women of Wisdom Conference. Porter has been attending RCMA for about six years, and she says she's always been impressed with how useful the conference is for religious meeting planners. “The tutorials are practical, and I can implement them into my daily work. I'm looking forward to Tampa!”

Yes, you'll be inspired by fabulous general session speakers. Of course, you'll hone your meeting planning skills at the tutorials, and you'll be wowed by top-notch entertainment. But the one thing that attendees really cherish about RCMA, what keeps them coming back year after year, are the connections they make with other members and associate members.

Mark Stewart, minister of program for the Alabama/West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, says, “There seems to be a spirit and a camaraderie at RCMA that sets it apart from other meeting planning events.”

Indeed, the opportunities for professional growth are available at all times at RCMA.

“Actually, vast benefits occur outside the programs at an RCMA conference,” says RCMA Executive Director DeWayne S. Woodring, CMP, CEM. “They happen over breakfast or lunch, in the hallways, on the buses, or around the social functions. When so many religious professionals come together, the synergy is dramatic, and the amount of business conducted is immense.”

An Exciting Start

There is so much to see and do in this colorful Florida city, and you'll get to see and do much of it with the early bird sightseeing tours and other activities that RCMA has planned for Tuesday, January 29. RCMA members will have a choice of four tours, each with a different emphasis, so there is something to satisfy everyone's tastes.

For example, you could go on the water in search of dolphins on the Dolphin Qwest tour, which takes place on a new, 64-foot, 49-passenger catamaran. The vessel sails into Tampa Bay, home to more than 400 bottlenose dolphins, endangered manatees, and numerous species of birds and native fish.

When visiting a new city, many people enjoy a tour that exposes them to that place's unique sights and highlights. That's what you'll receive if you choose the Tampa City Tour. You'll learn about Tampa's fascinating history through a visit to Ybor City and the Henry B. Plant Museum on the campus of the University of Tampa. You'll view wonderful, upscale homes along Bayshore Boulevard and the waterfront area, and you'll see the Ice Palace Arena, Garrison Seaport Cruise Terminal, and the recently restored Union Train Station.

Also on the early bird lineup is a series of behind-the-scenes experiences, something that only RCMA offers. These opportunities allow you to understand what is involved in the operations of a news media organization, convention and visitors bureau, a convention center, and a hotel.

But that's not all for Tuesday! Opening day concludes with a spectacular evening grand reception, “A Watery Wonderland,” at the world-class Florida Aquarium, home to 10,000 animals and plants from wetlands, bays, beaches, and coral reefs. You'll see sea dragons from Australia, alligator pipefish, moon jellies, isopods, and more.

“It's a unique venue that lends itself well to the opening reception,” Stone says. Sponsored by the Florida Aquarium and the Hyatt Regency Tampa, the aquarium is an amazing setting that promises to be one of the finest evenings of food, hospitality, and fellowship in RCMA history.

Opening Ceremonies and Expo 2002

The Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau is planning something really special for RCMA's 2002 opening ceremonies. For starters, a sensational morning extravaganza will fill you with anticipation for what's to come. Then you're in for a real treat: RCMA has invited the dynamic Willie Jolley to be the keynote speaker (for more on Jolley, see below).

Then it's off to the Expo, which will have at least 340 booths staffed by knowledgeable suppliers who provide services and facilities for religious meetings. Once again this year, booth space sold out almost as soon as the general mailing hit the post office.

“I enjoy everything about RCMA, but I particularly enjoy the booths at the Expo,” comments Mark Stewart.

Embracing Change

At the heart of RCMA's mission are the superlative 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 2002 tutorials will cover the spectrum of meeting-planning needs, ensuring that there is something for everyone from the first-time planner to the veteran professional.

For example, if you'd like to improve your negotiating skills, John Foster, III, an attorney with Foster, Jensen, Gulley in Atlanta, will present “How to Successfully Negotiate Anything with Anyone!” In this tutorial, you'll learn basic negotiating principles, strategies, and techniques that you can put to good use immediately. Foster's session includes an interactive negotiating exercise and tips for beginners and pros.

If you're a new religious meeting planner, consider attending “Meeting Planning Made Easy!” presented by Stephen Hahn, director of religious sales with Marriott International. Hahn will give you a comprehensive foundation for meetings management. The session also will be helpful to experienced planners, providing a review of critical checkpoints, systems, and methods.

A panel of four meeting industry professionals will present “Getting the Most for Your Meeting Dollar.” After attending, you'll be able to make the best use of your available funds.

If you are new to the Internet, attend “Surviving Your Foray into the Internet Jungle,” led by Jan Majewski, CLE director at Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg, Fla. The session will demonstrate, in nontechnical terms, the fundamentals of Internet use. It also will tell you about four Web sites that all RCMA members should be familiar with.

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 more smoothly, cost less, and provide more for your attendees. (See the conference schedule beginning on page 46 for a complete listing of tutorials.)

Plant Your Feet

The hands-on nature of the tutorials are great for honing your skills, the Expo is a wonderful forum for building partnerships that will last for years, and the sparkling evening entertainment, featuring exquisite cuisine and world-class performances, are great opportunities for networking with your peers.

But RCMA gives its attendees more. The organization packs the luncheons with inspirational general session speakers who will make you laugh, touch your heart, and inspire you to achieve new levels in your job and in your life. Wednesday's luncheon speaker, Janet Lapp, PhD, will put a positive spin on change with her presentation “Plant Your Feet Firmly In Mid-Air.”

A Historic Evening

Every RCMA is special, but the 30th anniversary conference will be extraordinary. RCMA will celebrate with a festive Thursday evening that certainly will be a conference highlight. Exquisite cuisine, the President's Award, electrifying entertainment, and wonderful moments worthy of RCMA's anniversary will all be part of the evening.

The conference will be rounded out with evenings filled with fun, excitement, entertainment, humor, and first-class dining. “When you leave the RCMA 30th Anniversary Conference, you will leave with knowledge you'll be able to use in your job every day. And you'll leave with memories that will last a lifetime,” says Woodring.

Willie Jolley: Keynote Speaker

Willie Jolley knows about change. If you've heard familiar advertising jingles for Pizza Hut, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and 7Eleven stores, then you've heard Willie Jolley. These are just a handful of the dozens of commercials Jolley recorded during a professional singing career that began when he signed his first record deal at the age of 17. You still might be hearing Jolley if it weren't for an unsuccessful singing engagement in Nashville, Tenn.

“I suddenly realized I had put my destiny in the hands of others,” Jolley says. “I realized I was more than just a singer. It was a moment that changed my life.” When Jolley returned home to Washington, D.C., he began to change the course of his life.

Soon after that Nashville experience, he was invited to give an inspirational talk at a junior college. “I sang a song and then spoke for 15 minutes. People were taking notes! They wanted handouts! They believed I had something to say!”

Indeed, he did — and does. Since that day in 1991, Jolley has carved a niche for himself as a leading motivational speaker, singer, and author. He is the author of two books, It Only Takes a Minute to Change Your Life, and A Setback Is a Setup For a Comeback, which debuted on the Washington Post's best-seller list. Toastmasters International named Jolley its 1999 Inspirational/Motivational Speaker of the Year. He also hosts the syndicated radio and television shows, “The Magnificent Motivational Minute.”

Luncheon Speakers: Janet Lapp, PhD

With the RCMA theme “Currents of Change,” there could hardly be a better luncheon speaker than Janet Lapp, PhD, who will speak to attendees on Wednesday.

Lapp is one of the most sought-after speakers in the world on how to adapt to an information society and how to develop the skills to thrive with current and future change.

“Change is not a force to be feared, but an opportunity to be seized, and the choice is ours,” says Lapp, who uses humor and finesse in advising her audiences about what to do, how to think, and how to move into the future with success and optimism.

Lapp, who earned her doctoral degree from McGill University in Montréal, is a member of the National Speakers Association's Speakers Hall of Fame. She truly has experienced change first-hand. She has been a registered nurse, a nurse manager, a professor, and a clinical psychologist. She is also the author of three books: Plant Your Feet Firmly In Mid-Air, Dancing With Tigers, and Positive Spin. She created and hosted the CBS series “Keep Well,” and is publisher of the award-winning The Change Letter.

Lapp has addressed audiences ranging from 20 to 8,000, from Hong Kong to Argentina, from Russia to New Zealand. In addition to her speaking and writing work, Lapp counsels organizations on the subject of change and facilitates retreats. Her global client base includes US Steel, AT&T, Unisys, IBM, SBC, Pfizer, Boeing, Salomon Smith Barney, General Motors, Canon, and KPMG.

Special Rates, Reduced Fares

Special room rates for RCMA planners and exhibitors registered for the conference are available at the Tampa Marriott Waterside, Hyatt Regency Tampa, and Wyndham Harbour Island. The official room registration form will be sent upon receipt of your conference registration.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and US Airways are offering special reduced rates to attendees. For more information, contact the American Airlines reservations line at (800) 433-1790 (refer to Star File 9712AH); Southwest Airlines at (800) 433-5368 (refer to ID Code R9061); or US Airways, (877) 874-7687 (refer to Gold File #96692022).

Also, Avis-Rent-A-Car Systems is offering a discount to attendees. Contact Avis at (800) 331-1600 and mention Avis Worldwide Discount T409699.