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7-10-15 General Conference Session Measured in Tons and Square Feet
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Part of the storage for the GC Session Exhibit Hall - Photo: Bryant Taylor
 
 
Every five years thousands of Adventists travel from around the world to attend the General Conference (GC) Session. Most people don't know that the planning starts ten years in advance of each session, so what does it really take to put on such an event? We will take a behind-the-scenes look at one component of the GC Session, the Exhibition Hall.
 
The planning process for the exhibition hall starts three years before GC Session. The actual booking of exhibits starts two years before. The process starts with an application, which is first sent to those exhibitors that participated in past years. Church organizations are usually a given, approved without too many questions. Independent ministries must go through an extra step which requires them to be approved by their home division. The GC Exhibit Committee comprised of  seven people (with representatives from the president's office, departmental offices and sessions management) approves all exhibit applications.
 
There are three expo halls that cover 325,059 square feet with 385 exhibits. These exhibits use over 3,800 staff/volunteers to run their booths.
 
What makes this exhibition hall interesting is the length of time that it’s open.  Two and a half days is the average length of time for an expo. The General Conference expo is open for 11 days! This presents a unique challenge. The normal two and a half days period allows for supplies such as giveaways and handouts to be stored in each organization's booth.
 
However, 11 days worth of supplies would be impossible to store in each booth so General Conference Session Management presented a solution. They set up a 13,000 sq/ft warehouse inside the convention center to house exhibitors' extra material. How much material you ask? Shirley Soltis, director of Sales for Fern, a leading national service contractor that provides a full range of services for expositions, conventions, servicing the various needs of show organizers and their participating exhibitors, says, “There were forty 53’ trailer loads of freight for General Conference Session.” Lesa Davis, Fern Exhibit Services added, "The freight in those trailers is one million pounds.”   
 
In addition to that, tons of boxes were shipped in by FedEx®, UPS, and driven in by personal vehicles for this event. Some booths are so exquisite that they had professional presentation companies set up for them.
 
One of the unique parts of the expo is the market place. The market place was originally started so that artists that participated on the program could sell their CDs. It has now been opened up to various church members to allow them to promote their wares.
 
Dean Rogers (former General Conference assistant treasurer) has been the Session Exhibit Manager for the last five sessions. He has seen the exhibition hall grow from 200 plus exhibits to where we are today. One of the questions people ask him is why is there a need for an expo at a church business session. His answer is, “The expo gives church members a chance to see what ministries are being used in all parts of the world, what resources are out there and it gives everyone a chance to see the church at work.“
 
--Bryant Taylor is communication/IT director for Southeastern Conference, with Tara Taylor
 
North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
9705 Patuxent Woods Drive
Columbia, MD 21046-1565 USA
Telephone: 301-680-6400
Fax: 301-680-6464
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