RCMA Executive Director Harry Schmidt with singer Jada Stumon at Emerge 2013
“These are not days for us to merely survive, these are days for us to thrive,” said Harry Schmidt, executive director of the Religious Conference Management Association, welcoming members to RCMA’s Emerge Conference, January 28–February 1, in Minneapolis. The revamped conference incorporated ideas and elements designed to educate and inspire religious conference planners.
“What you’ve seen this week is the new heart of RCMA,” said Dean Jones, director of conferences and events, speaking at the annual business meeting on the last day of the conference. “We want to develop an organization that exists for you,” he said. “That’s our goal.”
Among the changes at the show:
• a welcome center at the front entrance of the expo hall,
• an educational track for suppliers,
• community service and hands-on learning opportunities, and
• open feedback sessions with RCMA leadership for both planners and suppliers.
Keynote speaker John Cassis gave attendees a lift with a warm and humorous address on the qualities of leadership and the importance of trust. “Trust is the emotional glue that binds people together,” says Cassis, a former baseball player in the California Angels system, minister, motivational speaker for the Chicago Bears, and professional golfer. On leadership, he said the best leaders are those who raise people up and inspire them to do their best.
Shawna Suckow, founder of the Senior Planners Industry Network and the author of Planner Pet Peeves, delivered an address on the disconnect that can exist between planners and suppliers, offering tips on how to improve that relationship.
She asked the audience to use their smart phones to submit their own pet peeves. For one planner, the No. 1 bugbear was suppliers who “don’t pay attention to the details of my RFP.” From a supplier: planners spamming the hotel with RFPs. Suckow offered four tips to smooth the RFP process.
1. Put the goals and objectives of the meeting on the RFP so suppliers can better customize the proposal.
2. Tell the supplier about the demographics of your group.
3. Include three to five top priorities for the meeting.
4. Be clear about your deadlines.
Thursday’s general session featured Dr. Tony Evans, one of the most respected figures in evangelical circles and host of the radio broadcast “The Alternative,” heard in more than 400 countries. Evans told the RCMA audience that each person has a destiny, and he wove a picture of how being a meeting planner can be “just a job,” or one’s calling in life to make a difference in the lives of others.
He said that a destiny always involves three things: passion or zeal for what you are called to do; abilities that you have been given to achieve your destiny; and experiences that you have, both good and bad, that help you hone the first two.
In addition to education and inspiration, attendees got a taste for the range of event venues available in Minneapolis. The conference kicked off with a reception and a night of retail therapy at the Mall of America, the largest in the country, and on Tuesday, a reception at Windows on Minnesota provided spectacular views from the 50th floor of the IDS Tower. The Hyatt Regency Minneapolis hosted a dessert reception on Wednesday, while the conference closed with a gala at the convention center.
Bill Williams, CMP, vice president for diversity/sales, Choose Chicago, won RCMA’s Award of Excellence for his many years of service to the industry and to RCMA.
Finally, RCMA announced that it is planning three regional meetings in 2013 to provide members with additional opportunities to convene. The meetings will be held in Nashville, Chicago, and Colorado Springs—dates to be announced. Also, Birmingham, Ala., was selected as the site for Emerge 2015. Next year, Emerge will be in Sacramento, Calif., February 4–7.