Case Study: 2012 Annual Session, National Baptist Convention USA Inc.
Event: The largest undertaking on the NBC USA’s calendar, the Annual Session drew close to 20,000 delegates and members to Atlanta just after Labor Day weekend. The session focused on socio-political issues and mobilizing members to address social justice concerns. “We offered prayer for the crises that loom large on our national and international horizons,” says conference planner Marsha T. DuPont. “Being a political cycle, prayer for our nation’s presidential election in November was a major focus.” Conference speakers included Georgia clergy and state convention leaders, as well as notable Georgia judiciary and keynote speaker Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, a prominent civil rights leader and former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Site Selection: “We had our joint board meeting in Atlanta in 2005, and it was a major success, so we returned for 2012,” DuPont says. “The city has so much to offer in terms of off-site activities—sports, sightseeing, shopping, restaurants. Roughly 75 percent of delegates participated in non-session events, which is a good indicator that our city of choice was the right one.”
Preparation: With an expected 20,000 attendees arriving on a major travel holiday (Labor Day), pre-planning was key to DuPont’s task. “Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson was very kind to us,” she says. “Our team met with the local host transportation committee concerning heavy arrival and departure times, informing the airport personnel of our event. We also had transportation staff in uniform awaiting our delegates in the baggage claim area to direct them, and we had greeters available. The Atlanta CVB was also very accommodating.”
Execution: “Several site visits are required to assign office space and general session locations at the convention’s venue,” DuPont says of the Geogia World Congress Center, which hosted this year’s event. “The president of the convention selects the speakers, reviews the city selection and chooses the keynote speaker from the host city. This year, [the president] was also approached by leaders of the NAACP, who offered to provide our delegates with voting information relevant to our mission.”
Technology: “Nearly half of our delegates are between 55 and 85 years old, and they were amazingly interactive. Members were [taking] pictures, videotaping and taking notes,” she says. “But because of our demographic, cutting-edge technology was not a big priority. We did provide TV monitors for their convenience, and we also streamed our services live so they could be viewed on their smartphones.”
Organizational Integration: DuPont says the partnership with the NAACP at this year’s conference “shaped the event in several ways. It brought awareness to our delegates of the most essential part of the new states’ rights movement. It also provided in one place many valuable resources for voter registration, community action and answers to legal questions, as well as a knowledge base to educate our constituents about voter suppression and state requirements. The two entities were brought together primarily through a press conference hosted by our Home Missions Board Forum. It was a seamless and effective collaboration.”
Favorite Tools: First and foremost in her bag of conference planning tools is prayer. “Little prayer, little power; much prayer, much power,” she says. “Patience is also a key factor as you are dealing with so many personalities. Create a checklist to go by,” she advises. “Have a staff around you that possesses a servant mentality. We are all servants and we are designed to render a service to the organization and its delegates.”
Success: “This year’s conference was a success both for our convention and the city of Atlanta, which netted $16.4 million in economic impact from our presence there,” she says. “But I’m most proud when I am viewing the general session and see all of the many delegates that we have housed and accommodated from the airport arrivals, then seeing them checking out of the hotels and heading back to their homes.”
Going Forward: DuPont predicates continued success on a simple maxim: “Review, review and more review,” she says. “Reconfirm with every auxiliary president or department to get their feedback—positive or negative—concerning their respective areas. Review what we could have done differently and incorporate those changes for the next event.”
Inspiration: “When I’m faced with a perplexing situation, I do not erect barriers by thinking it is too difficult to resolve,” she says. “Instead, I open to divine guidance and feel assured of right resolutions. As I become receptive to God’s wisdom, ideas begin to flow and my mind becomes clear and alert. ‘Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind.’ [Job 38:36]”