This blog was posted by Mark White, Shelby Systems’ Arena Product Manager.

Or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Conferences” is how I should title this. Last week, Russell Byrd (our Arena Sales Rep.) and I had the pleasure of attending and exhibiting at Catalyst 2010. Held at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, GA (just outside of Atlanta) this annual event draws more than 12,000 ministry leaders for a two and a half day flood of information. With speakers such as Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, Craig Groeschel and North Point’s own Andy Stanley, the atmosphere is as ‘rock star’ as you can get without smoke machines and live animals. Oh wait, they do have smoke machines… and they even fired a guy from a cannon inside the arena. Last year a guy jumped from an incredibly high ladder into a foot of water in a kiddie pool. Never a dull moment.

As an exhibitor, conferences can be tedious and somewhat boring. We stand around while the attendees scamper to breakout sessions, workshops and labs. The Catalyst Conference is different in that something is always going on. Even during the general sessions, attendees and other exhibitors mix and mingle. Partnerships and mutually beneficial plans are discussed and contact info is exchanged. I never fail to learn something interesting (and yes, even game changing) from these interactions.

We’ve seen a trend lately where conferences are becoming more engaging and cater to specific ministry areas. With the economy of the past few years (which deserves its own post), organizations are being a little more discerning when deciding which events to send their employees to. Fortunately, organizers are aware of this and are providing more value, even though costs are rising. Good for them.

In the end, what you get out of a conference is up to you. Meeting like-minded people in similar positions that are struggling with the same ministry issues you are can be an inspiring and valuable turning point for you and your team. I encourage you to do your best to budget the time and money so that you can experience something special at an upcoming conference.

Both the Shelby team and the Shelby Arena guys will be coming to a town near you in 2011. If you have the opportunity to attend any conferences, please stop by and say ‘Hi’!