After a week-long intensive at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention (NAB), it may feel too soon to start thinking about another conference. Then again, a major reason your firm goes to these conferences is to connect with potential buyers, reconnect with existing clients and see for yourself what others in the audio, video and lighting industry are showcasing. So back we go into planning for the next conference. Just make sure you’re aware of unique vertical market conferences — especially church conferences — where your chances of getting face time with new leads are exponentially greater and the competition scarce.
In the house of worship market, the tip of the technoloxgy spear can be found at just a few unique conferences focusing on the technical and creative arts teams of churches. As some of your industry peers have already found, sponsoring or exhibiting at these is hyper-targeted.
List of Church Technical & Creative Arts Conferences
When I taught at my first church tech conference hosted by Technologies for Worship Magazine, it was as a church technical director. Twenty years later, the church technology space has grown dramatically with a host of conferences focused exclusively on church technical and creative arts teams.
“This three-day experience provides church teams with hands-on training, real-world solutions, networking, and more importantly, the inspiration that you need to grow your church community. There’s something for everyone on your ministry teams with five conferences covering tech, facilities, safety and security, communications, and worship.
Over 225 vendors and manufacturers exhibit during the Expo, with services that provide worship facilities with the products and services they need, from companies that specialize in servicing the church and worship facilities market.”
“That Church Conference is a communications and marketing conference designed to bring together church practitioners to collaborate and learn from each other in a fun and exciting environment with practical teaching from leading experts in the church.”
“STORY is a two-day conference for makers, creators, and artists who tell stories in a variety of mediums, industries, and settings.”
“The Tribe Tech Team Development Summit is designed to help church production staff and volunteers with the personal, technical and spiritual elements of working in church production. This is an event produced by Church Production Magazine.”
“During this three-day, two-night event, Saddleback’s Communications Team will share strategies and best practices in marketing, web, social media, creative arts and storytelling. You’ll walk away with new vision and practical solutions to expand your reach and grow your church.”
“SALT is a reminder of the role creativity plays in the context of the local church. We believe that creativity is a seasoning, it’s not the main course or a substantive side dish because creativity has no nutritional value. We are returning to Nashville for a three-day conference for the creative and technical arts community with inspiring environments, unhindered moments of worship, powerful speakers and a multitude of practical workshops on creativity.”
The size and focus of each conference listed above are generally similar but uniquely tailored. This list, however, is just a sampling of church creative and technical arts options available to local church leaders. There are dozens of smaller regional events hosted at and by churches, so be sure to know which churches are in your local markets hosting these events, too.
Before Sponsoring, Know This
At big shows like NAB, LDI, AES and InfoComm, the expo halls are huge and the focus is on new products. It’s hard for most vendors to stand out amidst miles of carpeted aisles. It’s the opposite of that at these conferences.
Having been both a sponsoring vendor and an attendee at church conferences, I have a few key pieces of advice and some helpful insights for maximizing these opportunities.
Listen to the attendees. The smallish nature of these events means you’ll have the opportunity to meet pretty much every attendee face-to-face. Don’t sell. Listen. And once you’ve listened, don’t sell. Instead, educate. Send your engineers and support team members to man the vendor booths (sometimes they’re just tables). A couple of people who deeply understand not only your product but the unique pain points and challenges of churches are going to make a better impression than your top-grossing salesperson or that marketing event coordinator.
Don’t bother with printed materials. It’s 2018 and attendees at these events are not carrying sponsored bags loaded with full-color product spec sheets. Have a unique URL for them to put their information in right then and there on their own smartphones. And don’t automatically add them to an email list, either. Here’s the chance to follow-up with an actual phone call and a personal email. The size of these means you’ll have a manageable number of people to respond to after the conference, so don’t fill their hands with printed materials that will just end up in the hotel trash bin anyway.
Cool swag works. Yeah, I’m still a guy who loves meaningful marketing, but there are two kinds of swag that make it home with me: a fun gizmo that I can give to my kids when I get off of the airplane and a useful, branded technology tool for myself. Personally, I like giving away USB jump-drives pre-loaded with some helpful templates and documents (not product PDFs) that church techs may actually use. Whatever you pick, make it something practical as it will likely make it past the hotel trash all the way back to the attendee’s desk. And high-quality, fun t-shirts (see SnorgTeesfor geek humor that will easily pass muster with church techs) are great for giveaways and raise your cool quotient.
The big conferences are a ton of work and exhausting. The little ones, especially when focused on a specific target market like churches, likely have better ROI. Just be sure to send people who actually know the house of worship market, OK?
What say you? Share your views and links in the comments below.