Hoping to learn from the wisdom of faith-based clients, the Greater Phoenix CVB is convening an advisory board that will focus on the needs of religious meeting groups. Called the Religious Advisory Summit, the advisory board will meet in October in Phoenix, with think-tank sessions at the Phoenix Convention Center and the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown hotel.

“In hosting and interacting with faith-based groups in the past, we’ve found that they have nuanced needs and expectations,” said Donald Oswald, associate director of convention sales at the Greater Phoenix CVB. “We want to be equipped to meet those needs and exceed those expectations. The best way to do that is to bring together smart, experienced people and pick their brains.”

Oswald said 10 religious meeting planners and executives have signed on to participate, and he hopes to attract five more. Among those scheduled to attend are representatives from the Mennonite Church USA, Episcopal Church, Assemblies of God, Church of the Brethren, Christian & Missionary Alliance, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Several hotel executives also will participate in the summit, including Fred Reichelt, director of worldwide accounts for Hyatt Hotels International, and sales representatives from downtown Phoenix’s three major hotels: the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown, and the Wyndham Phoenix.

The Greater Phoenix CVB has hired Kimberly Graber of Expert Facilitation & Training to preside over the summit. Graber, who possesses 18 years of experience as a professional facilitator, said she will work to ensure each strategy session is efficient and outcome-based.

“The Religious Advisory Summit will bring together a diverse group of planners and executives,” Graber said. “My role will be to emphasize process, neutrality, interactivity, and consistency. The goal is to cultivate consensus and document progress for follow-up action.”

The Religious Advisory Summit is not the Greater Phoenix CVB’s first concerted effort to maximize Phoenix’s appeal to faith-based convention groups. In December 2006, the CVB launched FaithInPhoeinix.com (www.faithinphoenix.com), a Web site specifically created for religious meeting planners.

Religious meetings already on Phoenix’s convention calendar include the Southern Baptist Convention (2011), General Council of the Assemblies of God (2011) and Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly (2012).

Individuals or groups interested in joining the Greater Phoenix CVB’s Religious Advisory Summit can contact Oswald at dowsald@visitphoenix.com or (602) 452-6219.