Some people were born to network, work the room, make new acquaintances, and even friends. Others have a long list of things they'd rather be doing, inclusive of the famous root canal.
Depending on your role on the church teampastor, facilities, tech, communicationsyou may fall in one of these categories or somewhere in between, but wherever you are on that spectrum, you likely know that attending a conference such as the Worship Facilities Conference and Expo (WFX) isn't totally complete without collecting a few business cards. However, this year, event organizers hope attendees will make far more meaningful connections.
"Our theme is Grow Together' and it makes sense because we want churches to grow, and not necessarily in number. We want individuals to grow in their skills, we want church teams to learn together, and we want all of it to happen in community with other churches," says Jim Wagner, general manager of WFX.
As it's a major objective for the 2016 event, Wagner and others have developed some innovative means of getting attendees to make those connections and engage with one another in useful ways that don't necessarily involve sticky nametags and general awkwardness. (You still have to wear your conference badge, though.)
One is The Spark. To be located prominently on the expo floor, this is a place for attendees to connect with the experts leading the conference sessions, vendors, and most importantly, other attendees. The Spark will also house a graffiti wall where attendees can write questions, ideas and goals. "We were asked to create opportunities for discussion and interaction between the different roles, functions and tribes. The Spark is a place where connections begin," says Wagner.
The Spark is purely drop-in, there are no sessions or scheduled programs. It's simply a place dedicated to conversation in the midst of a large conference with a lot going on. Organizers hope it will "spark" discussions about the problems and challenges all churches share and will result in connections that last long after the conference concludes.
"WFX exists to encourage churches to think creatively about their ministries and how they utilize their facilities, staff and technology," says Wagner. "Learning from other churches and making those connections is a huge part of how that happens."
WFX organizers have also been hard at work creating a preemptive connection opportunity. The new WFX app (available for iPhone and Android) allows attendees to create a profile and connect with other attendees and the conference's speakers ahead of time. "The primary goal for creating the app was to better facilitate people planning their attendance at the event, but it also allows for intentional planning for networking and getting to know others outside of your team," says Wagner.
The app's home screen provides a feed of updates from other users, including event organizers, other registered attendees and speakers. It can also connect to the user's Twitter account and provide prewritten tweets on a number of topics.
"The app almost eliminates the need for business cards. As long as someone has a profile in the app, you can look them up, send them a message, or download their contact info," says Wagner.
Other features include the conference's full schedule and a tool for making your own, an interactive map of the Kentucky Exposition Center, messaging, and the ability to set reminders and notifications. Users can also view speaker profiles and rate speakers once they've attended their session.
After registering for WFX, attendees will receive an access code via email and can then download the WFX app from the App Store or Google Play.
WFX will be held at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. Pre-conference workshops are scheduled for Sept. 20 and the main conference for Sept. 21-22. For more information or to register, visit wfxweb.com.