One of the highlights of my job is the production of our Annual Conference. This conference consists of several worship sessions and business meetings over three or four days, held in early June. For the last three or four years the conference was held in Greenville, NC. This year, due to a scheduling conflict, the conference was held in downtown Raleigh. Being so close to home was a nice change from previous conferences. I was able to run back to the office if I needed something. I was also able to rely on help from the family with transportation logistics.
The Raleigh Convention Center (RCC) is a beautiful facility. We were used to filling the entire building where our conference was held in the past. This building however, was so large that it dominated us! We could have easily fit two or three more conferences our size into the same facility. That in and of itself was quite an adjustment!
The RCC has a much more formalized Information Technology (IT) infrastructure than I am used to working with. They had their own internal IT staff that worked with us all week. There was plenty of bandwidth for all of our attendees as well as the video streaming application and internal staff needs. I worked with the Minutes Room staff this year due to personnel changes resulting from the death of one of our staff members (and personal friend). All of the minutes for the 2011 Annual Conference were recorded using Google Docs and Spreadsheets. The system served us well and the minutes folks were able to complete their work for the week on time.
There are several different ministries that take place during the week of our conference. One of these was done in partnership with Stop Hunger Now. Volunteers gathered during the dinner break one day to assemble food packets that will eventually become meals for hungry families in North Carolina. The small (smaller than you would think!) group managed to assemble 150,000 packets that will eventually become 90,000 meals! My friend, Steve Taylor, wrote an excellent blog post on this event.
One of the big parts of annual conference is the business sessions. There are at times quick votes and at others seemingly endless debate. Resolutions are offered, discussed and voted upon. Rules are changed, removed and created. People are generally civil with each other as large and small theological issues are debated.
Through all of this I am responsible for setting up the initial staff IT operations including the News Room, Minutes Room, E-mail Station, Registration area and all of the staff members scattered across the building. Once everything is set up and running I sit in the News Room and help out with the various social network feeds that are covering the event. I enjoy the work but using the social networks to communicate with people out in the conference is the most fun part of the week. Who is looking forward to next year already?