Thursday, May 11, 2006

Conference Lessons

Well I’m home from the Multi-Site Conference and I thought I’d share a few things I learned along the way. But I’m not going to get into what the speakers had to say even though it was really good stuff. Since I knew I was going to be up there for the conference, I offered to help out with some of the behind the scenes stuff. I figured that as long as I’m part of the host church, why not offer to help?

I was glad I did. Usually at these conferences I can get a little bored. Not while the speakers are talking, mind you. I mean at a conference this size the speakers usually are good enough to keep my attention. But rather in the between times. I like having something to do. And there was plenty that needed doing.

So here’s just a few of the things I learned from all that this weekend:

Just dive in and help where you can. Coming from a small campus of 150-ish staffed almost entirely with volunteers into a huge campus with 5,000+ attending every week and gobs of paid staff running things, I wasn’t sure what I could possibly be able to contribute to their team. But I had offered to help and I ended up helping coordinate what was going on in the main auditorium, making sure that the details were covered so that things ran smoothly for the speakers, worship teams, and most importantly, the conference attendees.

The staff member for Seacoast who does that up there only wears about 12 hats, not to mention that he was speaking at a number of the break out sessions. And I’ve been doing the same sort of thing for our campus in Savannah since we launched a couple years back. It’s a little like cat herding trying to get everyone heading in the same direction sometimes, and I seem to have some cat herding skills. They needed them up there just like we need them down here. And it was pretty cool when Greg asked during the final tech meeting a few minutes before we got started and we saw that there were folks from at least 4 different campuses helping out with the tech stuff (not to mention the 100 or so other volunteers involved with other parts of the conference).

Bigger does not have to mean different. Sure their big campus has their tech team connected by headsets and they have a separate video room. We’ve got a folding table at the back of the theater. And we whisper a lot. They have a planning meeting days ahead of time and produce a cue sheet on a computer. We spend about 30 seconds during our set up time telling the key people what to expect and have a handwritten order of service.

But the bottom line is we pretty much have the same processes and have to be sure the same functions are covered. And that made fairly it easy to integrate into their team. It was a real eye opener to me to see how similar we really are to each other. Especially since so many of the conference speakers kept saying how important it was to be sure that new multi-site campuses keep the starting church’s “DNA”.

Feed your volunteers. Oh, my gosh! This is HUGE. I was starting to stress a little the first day trying to figure out how I was going to break away for a few minutes to go down the road and grab a bite to eat and still get back in time after trying to find a new place to park. I told one of the guys on the team that I might be a schootch late getting back. His reply was, “You know we’ve got food back there.”

He said it like, “Duh! Blondie wake up! You don’t need to go anywhere because of course we’ll feed you. It’s the least we can do for everyone who helps out.”

My first thought was that it must be expensive to feed everyone. But as I thought about it, I realized it is probably a really inexpensive way to dramatically increase productivity. When folks are trying to be sure that thousands of details are taken care of, even right up to the last minute, the last thing you want is for everyone to disappear for an hour or more while they go off site and wait in line somewhere for something to eat. Most people will only take 10-15 minutes to eat and then they get back to it. Besides, it is one less thing to have to think about so folks can stay focused better on what needs doing. Not to mention it is a time when folks can chat with each other, building team cohesion, rather going out separate directions on their own.

You never know who you’re going to meet. I stayed late after the weekend worship service Saturday night and went to the Newcomers meeting, not because I was new, but because I was giving the speaker a ride home. Since I was staying at his house, it was the least I could do.

There was a guy there that looked very familiar. The whole time the meeting was going on, I was trying to figure out where I knew him from. Afterwards I went up and chatted with him for a few minutes and we figured out that we both used to work for the same company a while back, but in different departments. We’d seen each other’s faces often enough, but didn’t really ever have any dealings. He’s got a friend in Savannah that he’s been meaning to tell about Seacoast down here. And now he’s got a connection. How cool is that?

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