Case Study: Florida State Association of Free Will Baptists
Event: The Florida State Association of Free Will Baptists combines three conferences in one for its annual state association meeting. The main conference includes business sessions with reports from various boards, committees and national departments and worship services. The Annual Florida Women Active for Christ has a simultaneous meeting with a business session, missions luncheon and special missions service, which is open to all conference attendees. The Florida Youth Conference, which includes music, arts and Bible competitions, as well as worship services for preteens and teens also occurs at the same time.
Challenge: “The biggest challenge is making sure each group is communicating with the meeting planner and with each other,” Bryant says. A steering committee, which has a representative from the state association, the FWAC and the Christian Ministries Board, which oversees the Youth Conference, sets the agendas and schedules for the overall meeting.
Site Selection: Bryant takes several factors into account when choosing a location. “One is that it needs to be equal distance from the extremes in the state so that churches in the extreme Northwest and Southeast are traveling about the same distance,” he says. “From there, we gauge decisions on the rates we are offered, the comp package and then some intangibles that you can not put on paper (i.e., location of meeting space, location of bar to meeting space, availability of restaurants, etc.).”
Volunteers: Bryant has had volunteers return annually to the meeting. “They come from our churches and are familiar with most of what we are doing and what we need,” he says. “When it comes to the youth competition part of the meeting, we usually face some challenges recruiting judges.” He appeals to member churches and attendees when he comes up short, and rewards them by providing housing, as well as financial honorariums and meals for some.
How did you get into meeting planning? “Actually, it was by default,” he says. “In 1990, we decided to go from having three separate meetings in local churches to one meeting in a hotel format. I served our state association in publishing our newsletter at that time and needed to deal with the hotel to have all the critical information to publish and advertise. As the meeting grew, the role of a meeting planner evolved. In 2002, I was selected as the executive director of our state association and the task of meeting planner is now included in that job description.”
What’s your best advice for a fellow event planner? “Plan as much as you can but then be flexible. No matter how much you plan and prepare, something will come up. It might be a speaker needing to cancel or a room change from what was previously planned, but you have to be flexible and roll with the punches.”
Inspiration: “I enjoy the organizing aspect of the task, as well as working with people. There is always great inspiration in knowing the work is ultimately for the Kingdom of God.”