We’re pulling back the curtain on General Assembly by answering some questions from past attendees. This Assembly 101 gets to some of the nuts and bolts of how our annual event comes into being.
How are meal prices determined?
Meal prices are determined by the hotel. We are provided with set catering menus that include pre-planned plated and buffet-style breakfasts, lunches and dinners. We cannot change the cost of these meals, but CBF and our partners examine ways to reduce how much of any Assembly cost is passed on to attendees. Similar events charge a registration fee, but CBF has been able to avoid this charge. The post-worship receptions in The Gathering Place are free to attendees. We work with partners, various groups and CBF programs to sponsor these opportunities for food and fellowship.
How is the variety of special events determined?
Many of our partner organizations choose General Assembly as the location of their own annual meetings. As we have knowledge of these events, we offer to publicize them in our materials. Because the Assembly Resource Guide requires that we stick to a strict submission deadline (March 1), we are unable to include events and details that are finalized after that closing date, although we do add them to our online material. Since many special events are not official CBF functions, we do not determine the time, location, transportation options or even type of event offered (breakfast, lunch, reception, off-site dinner, etc.), but we are happy to provide as much guidance as possible in helping partners make those decisions.
How are locations for the overall Assembly chosen?
There are several factors that go into choosing a host location. First, we look at the concentration of Cooperative Baptists and partners across the country. We must ensure that the location is easily accessible for a large group of people. We have substantial pockets of CBF churches on the east coast and in Texas. So, with that in mind, you will notice that we have alternated quite a bit between those two areas. We also consider the ease of flying in and out of certain cities and the availability of a low-cost public transportation options. Assembly 101 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the CBF General Assembly We then look at the available facilities within those concentrated areas and ask: Can the space hold us? Does it have a large enough ballroom suitable for worship/business sessions? Does it have adequate exhibit space? Are there enough hotel sleeping rooms? Can this hotel accommodate workshops? Can we hold and host everything under one roof? Through the years, we have looked into many potential locations, and we continue to do so. Suggestions are always welcomed—just know that we will be asking all of the above questions about any potential location. Sometimes, in order to get the lowest costs possible for hotel rooms and other expenses, we enter into contracts with certain locations as a guarantee that rates will not significantly increase for attendees. Finally, we consider price and ask questions like: How much are room rates? What is food and beverage minimum we would have to guarantee before facing penalty charges? What are the additional costs of hosting a meeting here? These three criteria help us to narrow down the best Assembly site options.
In addition to the Assembly Resource Guide, what is available at the Information Stations?
Information Stations have local dining and sightseeing suggestions, onsite emergency contacts and parking and transportation options. If one of our Information Station volunteers can’t help you to locate something, they can connect you with a CBF staff member who can handle your request.
Why are Assembly nametags so large?
Assembly name tags are certainly larger in size than those at some other conferences. Their layout is in response to requests by attendees to increase the font size, add more personal information and to include a quick glance schedule for easy reference. We have attempted smaller versions of the badge, but to accommodate a smaller size, we have to concede some earlier requests. We continue to seek new name tag options and try new formats.
Why do we call the exhibit hall “The Gathering Place?”
Several years ago, the name of the Assembly exhibit area was changed from “Resource Fair” to “The Gathering Place” with the hope that this title would better reflect our goals for the space. To us, The Gathering Place is about more than exhibit booths with free candy— this is a place for Cooperative Baptists to fellowship, network, learn and relax. Partners, friends, staff and food all mingle in this area with tables and chairs for facilitating conversation and evening receptions after worship. What’s a better incentive to check out The Gathering Place than free food? Within The Gathering Place, we also operate the CBF Missions Market and the Silent Auction. We know most conferences and events don’t have a name for their resource fair and we’re ok if you want to call it that. It is our hope, however, that regardless of the name, you think of it as a place to gather for a little while or a long time throughout the Assembly.
How is the location of The Gathering Place determined within the hotel?
The two largest spatial needs of any General Assembly are worship and The Gathering Place. Once those spaces are assigned, they are off the market for use by other events. In locations that may have a limited number of ballrooms that can accommodate our most sizeable functions, we must utilize the next largest available spaces which, by square footage, are known as “pre-function areas” like lobbies and hallways. Each year, we have the goal of placing worship and The Gathering Place on the same floor to make them easier for attendees to access. Unfortunately, we have yet to find a hotel that allows us to meet this goal. Signage is a crucial component of every Assembly. It can be challenging to predict common traffic patterns for placing signage with numerous hotel entrances and exits and attendees accessing events from a variety of different starting points, Regardless of the hotel layout, we do place some signage in the same locations each year which we hope provides security in its consistency. Directional signs can be found at the top and bottom of each escalator. Hotel maps are in the Assembly Resource Guide and at the Information Stations, on the large scale entry units leading into worship and into The Gathering Place.
How is the layout of The Gathering Place determined?
Two key factors play into laying out the various components of The Gathering Place—the room itself and the total number of exhibits we need to fit into the space. When looking at the room, we consider the location of needed electrical outlets, access to the loading/unloading dock and opportunities for large scale storage. As we begin to lay out the exhibits and booths within the space, attention is given to formal CBF partners, the spatial needs of the CBF Missions Market and Silent Auction and the promptness of exhibitors to purchase booths. The earlier vendors purchase exhibit space, the better options there are for prime placement within the room. Maps of The Gathering Place with a list of vendor locations within the space are available each year.
Why is The Gathering Place open only on Thursday and Friday?
Exhibiting at Assembly is a lot of work. Representatives from each exhibiting organization are true multi-taskers, taking time from their day-to-day duties to focus on being with us at Assembly. After listening to our vendors, we determined that across the board logistically, Wednesday is most convenient for set up and Thursday and Friday are best to exhibit. Prior to each Assembly, we review schedule and if at any point we determine that The Gathering Place can open earlier, we will certainly do so. Touring The Gathering Place during set up can present safety risks. Some of the elements that have to be installed create insecure and hazardous areas for attendees not wearing proper shoes, head gear or clothing. Because of these possible dangers, we recommend not coming into The Gathering Place before it officially opens.
Why are there limited quantities of items in the CBF Missions Market?
The CBF Missions Market is a popular section of The Gathering Place. It makes available for purchase global goods from our missions and ministries partners. Field personnel work directly with local artisans to secure items for the Market. These artisans excitedly send inventory to Assembly, but as with any business, their goal is to sell the items they have as quickly as possible. It is not our practice to ask artisans to make goods to then store in a warehouse with the hopes of selling them at a future date. As you can imagine, such a practice would cause these microenterprises to lose money. With a grateful heart, we receive whatever items they can send and make every effort to be good stewards of their work and of their finances. Running the onsite Missions Market is a team effort. It takes considerable time to inventory, price, label, and pack these items for Assembly. None of this work is any one person’s primary job. And though we are unable to provide support for a year-round merchant store, we are honored to bring to you all that we can from our global partners during Assembly each year. Truly, the CBF Missions Market has never been about the items for sale. The most important aspects have always been the stories and the people that the items represent.
How are workshop topics and presenters chosen?
The process for submitting workshop proposals begins in October. An online proposal form is open to the public and targeted “asks” are made based on the availability of local leaders and the ebb and flow of current issues. After proposals have been received, a workshops subcommittee gathers to review the submissions, discuss topics and narrow the number of workshops that will be offered. This process takes months of additional conversations with potential presenters to insure that our slate of workshops delivers on its promise of being both a ministry and personal resource for Assembly attendees.
How is the workshop schedule created?
Deciding upon the length of workshop sessions is always a challenge. Some topics lend themselves to an hour long presentation and others could benefit from additional time for discussion and debate. It is hard to predict the most equitable distribution of time given the variety of topics, but we continue to try various options. When distributing workshops across Thursday and Friday, we look at the overall number of offerings, the potential popularity of certain topics, the daily Assembly schedule and the availability of adequate meeting room space to (hopefully) create the best balance possible.
How does CBF plan for highly anticipated workshops?
If we anticipate that the subject matter or its presenter will generate a highly attended workshop, we make every effort to place them in high capacity rooms. Because available large spaces within the hotel are limited due to other events (meal functions, worship, The Gathering Place, etc.) we are not always able to utilize the larger rooms that we would like for workshops. In crafting the schedule, we spend significant time juggling and shuffling events to make sure that the largest rooms possible are available when needed. Additionally, we must follow capacity guidelines established by the hotel and enforced by the local fire marshals—this is why we are unable to bring in more chairs to an already crowded room. Some presenters are available and willing to lead repeated sessions of their workshops, but that is not always possible due to scheduling conflicts. A great rule of thumb would be: if you really want to attend a specific workshop, get there as early as you can.
How are worship themes chosen?
A worship subcommittee is established for each Assembly and is comprised of worship leaders within local churches that are often recommended by CBF state and regional offices. These talented individuals look at all of the moving parts of worship including the keynote speakers, musical guests and guiding scriptures. After taking these pieces into consideration and consulting the CBF Executive Coordinator, a cohesive theme naturally emerges that allows for an interconnected worship experience.
What efforts are made to blend a variety of worship styles and preferences?
Planning worship for this type of gathering is not an easy task. On top of the normal nuts and bolts of planning, there is an added level of staging and production that has to be factored into each session. The styles of worship that are showcased each year reflect the people on the subcommittee and the logistical possibilities of the location itself. The worship chairperson(s) give guidance to the styles that are incorporated into each session.