By Sarah Jamieson
In January 2008, hundreds of planners from the Christian meetings arena will make a pilgrimage of sorts to Atlanta’s Cobb Galleria Convention Centre.
It will mark the launch of the Christian Meeting Planners Convention and Expo, a new conference designed for planners who handle meetings and events with a Christian focus. That includes planners from churches, ministries, professional associations, other faithbased organizations and the business and nonprofit communities, says Art DeArmond, CMP, vice president of Tennessee-based Mpact Events, the conference’s creator. The expo is scheduled for January 7-10, 2008.
The goal is to bring together planners, product and service suppliers and other meeting industry professionals who may not otherwise have a chance to interact in a faith-based setting, DeArmond says. His company analyzed the potential audience for a new Christian planners’ expo and found there was a largely untapped pool of about 5,400 planners who could benefit from education on Christian meeting issues. “We felt the existing expos (those held by the Religious Conference Management Association and Christian Meetings & Conventions Association) were reaching about 500 Christian planners, and we knew there had to be more than 500 out there,” DeArmond says.
He says the new conference’s aim is not to compete directly with the RCMA or CMCA shows, but to offer content and educational opportunities they currently do not. The CMPCE program will include basic education on topics such as negotiating space contracts and creating vibrant meetings, but it also will teach planners new ideas like embracing environmental responsibility and taking advantage of cutting-edge software and technology. It’ll reach out to many planners who have never attended an industry meeting before, DeArmond says.
And the entire event will be infused with a tone of Christian encouragement and enrichment, helping planners to positively impact their own attendees’ spiritual awareness, DeArmond says.
Presenters include professional speaker and life coach Valorie Burton, Meeting Planners International board member Michael Owen, author and leadership expert John Maxwell, meeting technology guru Corbin Ball, and humorists Taylor Mason and Bob Stromberg. And each day, the convention floor will be alive with musical acts and other faith-centered entertainment, DeArmond says. Musicians scheduled to appear include The Clark Sisters, MercyMe and Avalon.
CMPCE will encompass 300 booths and 150,000 square feet of space at the Cobb Galleria Centre, and everything will be under one roof for the convenience of attendees, DeArmond says. Breakout sessions will take place in adjoining space at the convention center, but all other programs will happen on the convention floor, including meals. There will even be a coffee and snack bar located centrally on the show floor.
Conference accommodations will be available at the adjacent Renaissance Waverly Hotel.
“With this being a first-year event, we knew it would be especially important to take care of our suppliers,” DeArmond says. “We’ll be as accommodating of them as possible.” CMPCE’s program includes educational seminars for exhibitors, touching on topics such as sales effectiveness, generating return on trade-show investment, and pre- and post-sale techniques. There also will be a “green room” for exhibitors where they can unwind, enjoy snacks and drinks, even take advantage of a relaxing chair massage.
DeArmond says the plan is to make CMPCE an annual event taking place in a different city each year. For attendees and exhibitors who want to connect pre- and post-show, MPact has created a Web site, www.cmpcecafe.com, where they can get to know each other’s needs, set up meetings and network online. Planners also are being encouraged to suggest additional educational content for the conference.
“Our goal is to acknowledge the incredibly valuable task Christian meeting planners have,” DeArmond says. “We want to encourage, thank and entertain them. We want to help train them to raise the bar on what they do. The number of meetings they plan is in the tens of thousands – with tens of millions of attendees.” MM&E
(Sarah Jamieson is the Editorial Assistant from St. Louis, Mo.)
Christian Meeting Planners Convention & Expo
January 7-10, 2008
Cobb Galleria Convention Centre