Twelve Most Frequently Asked Questions about Annual Conference
1) How is the Annual Conference funded?
Presently there are four primary sources of income to fund day to day operations of the Annual Conference office, Standing Committee, study committees, and the big annual event. They are worship service offerings, Conference exhibit space rental, Conference registrations, and district assessments on a membership per capita basis. Annual Conference is not authorized nor staffed to raise funds in other ways. The Annual Conference Fund is expected to be self-sufficient.
2) Why do we pay Conference registration fees?
Conference registration fees are the primary source of budgeted income. It is fitting the attendees pay a fee because the Annual Conference event is the largest budgeted expenditure for the year. These fees assist with such costs as rental of Convention facilities, decorator services, sound/video/lighting services, required insurances, and Program and Arrangements Committee and worship committee planning meetings. In comparison to registration costs one may pay at other conferences, our fees are very minimal for a Conference that stretches over five days. Payment of the registration fee also entitles one to a name badge which provides passage to Conference events and aids with security requirements of many facilities. An exception to the registration process is that worship attendees need not be able to show a name badge.
3) Why is Annual Conference so expensive?
The cost of each Conference is highly dependent upon the cost of the facilities and other primary vendor services such as the decorator and sound/video/lighting. Planning for 4-5,000 attendees requires two sizable halls for meetings and exhibits and lots of smaller rooms for the other events. In the industry, cities hosting conferences and conventions are identified by “tiers.” First tier cities have larger facilities with many close upscale hotels and are in heavy demand by all planners. It is clear that from a cost viewpoint Annual Conference must seek out second and third tier cities. The facilities in these cities will accommodate the Brethren but may require more walking to hotels, even shuttle service in some instances. We will see more of these Conference accommodations beginning in the year 2003 and beyond.
4) Why aren’t we using more university campuses? Aren’t they less expensive?
They are definitely less expensive for attendees willing to stay in residence halls rather than hotels. Along with that comes less convenience with bed choices and shared restroom facilities. The meeting facilities may be less costly than convention centers. Often, campuses are not geared toward providing usage of the facilities in the same way as convention centers. If the campus is not compact, walking between events and the residence halls can become a major issue. Depending on location of the campus, public transportation may not be as accessible and may be more costly.
5) What about all the walking?
The size of the convention center and its distance from the hotels is an important consideration for Program and Arrangements committee as site choices are made. A lot of walking can occur just within the center as well as to/from the hotels. Walking really becomes a fact of life when attending conferences for attendance in excess of 4,000. Shuttle service is often considered but is quite costly and we’ve not been able to cover costs when it has been used.
6) Why can’t Brethren personnel do some of the jobs that we pay for? Can’t Brethren volunteers set up and take down chairs, tables, and perform other labor tasks?
Reality is that convention centers have exclusive contracts with some vendors to provide services within their facilities. Liability for possible injury is an important factor for consideration.
7) Why can’t attendees bring their own food into the convention center, thereby lowering our costs? Why are meal and refreshment costs so high?
One of the exclusive contracts referred to above, which is almost universal in the industry, is the contract for a catering service within a convention center. To protect the contract between center and caterer, attendees are prohibited from bringing bag lunches or one’s own food into the center. Once menu selections are negotiated and priced, there is an additional “service charge” (currently in the 18-20% range) and sales tax added to the cost of the meals and refreshments. Again, this is a standard in the industry.
8) Why must we be seated so closely to those on either side in the meeting hall?
In most convention centers, the seating pattern is determined by fire and safety regulations. Generally the chairs are literally hooked together side by side to form clean rows. The size and number of aisles and the number of chairs in a row and/or section are also requirements of fire and safety regulations.
9) How are preachers and musicians chosen for Annual Conference?
Program and Arrangements Committee gathers names from the yearly Conference Evaluation Forms; from Musician Information Forms on file in the Conference office; and from its own knowledge of leadership within the denomination. The pink Musician Information forms are available each year at the Information area of Conference.
10) Does anyone censor speakers’ messages at Conference?
No. Preachers are well informed of the Conference theme and are given a theme, scripture texts, and general direction for their specific worship service. Manuscripts of most messages are available in the Conference office for use by those doing sign interpretation for the deaf and for requested copies after the message is delivered.
11) Who may display materials in the exhibit hall?
The exhibit hall is primarily used to showcase the programs and agencies of the Church of the Brethren. In most cases, the denominational-wide missions of the Church of the Brethren are on display. Displays must support the ideals, purposes, and priorities of the Church of the Brethren, promoting unity of the body. Each year, exhibitor requests must include a definitive listing of their mission and purpose.
12) How are Insight Sessions determined?
Insight Sessions are primarily used to promote missions and programs of the denomination. They may be requested by districts and the five agencies that are accountable and reportable to the Annual Conference. Other groups must gain sponsorship through a district or one of the five agencies. The expectation is that all sessions will be supportive of the ideals, purposes, and priorities of the Church of the Brethren, promoting unity of the body.