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Worship Conferences: The More the Better?

May 18, 2006 8:00 AM


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With more conferences and exhibitions springing up all the time to serve the worship media specialist, one might think the market was in danger of saturation. Yet the organizers of many of these events report the worship community’s hunger for knowledge and information is far from satisfied.

Both new and established conferences report they continue to thrive.

“They’re starving for knowledge on the systems they have to work with every week,” says Shelagh Rogers of Technologies for Worship magazine. TFW was the longtime producer of the Inspiration conference, and has adopted a new strategy in recent years to reach a larger audience.

The TFW conference now affiliates itself with several major trade shows in the United States and abroad each year, including those held by the National Association of Broadcasters, Infocomm International, LDI and PLASA in the U.K. Rogers says the new strategy has worked very well for the magazine by giving TFW access to the drawing power of these major shows and enabling them to segment their audience by interest. “NAB has a broadcast dimension, while LDI is more of a live-events show, and Infocomm gets us the pro AV people,” she says.

Doug Stanny is one of the organizers of a brand-new event, the first Worship Resource and Education Conference, scheduled to be held in Phoenix in August. He also sees no danger of over-serving the worship market.

“There may be a point in the future where the church trade show market has reached a level of saturation, but I think attendance will dictate when we have reached that level, and I don’t see that any time in the near future,” he says.

Still, all of these events have to compete with each other and find ways to set themselves apart. Stanny says one of WREC’s distinctions will be a “Live Production Hall” as part of its exhibition. “We are constructing an entire church production within a 5,000-square-foot hall,” he explains. “This gives attendees the golden opportunity to actually see how products interconnect with each other.”

Although vendor-specific training and integrators’ education programs have value, Stanny sees a clear role for national events, largely because they can deliver high-level instructors and more comprehensive technology coverage.

Those arguments must be pretty persuasive to attendees, as well, because the national events this year have reported excellent support by worship ministers and technicians. Rogers says the TFW event at NAB was the largest ever, with more than 50 conference sessions. Attendance in 2006 was up 50 percent over 2005, which in turn was a 35 percent increase over 2004.

NAB Vice President John Marino says the association’s research indicates several thousand attendees are involved in church worship services.

The National Systems Contractors Association had a similar outcome from its initial offering of a special conference for houses of worship. Representatives from more than 35 churches attended and took part in a daylong education program in addition to touring the exhibit hall, says E-Marketing manager Jen Visser.

Visser says the new program is likely to grow in the coming years parallel to the growth of the HOW market in general. According to NSCA research, the HOW market “tops the lists” for both manufacturers/independent sales reps and integrators/consultants in terms of importance and growth prospects.

Uses of multimedia in churches continue to boom, and the people responsible for choosing and running these systems continue to need education. That seems like a formula for ongoing growth in conferences and other worship-specific events. As Stanny puts it, “The more opportunities an attendee has, the better.”



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