Adapting to a pandemic with virtual, interactive learning
Q&A with Ron Procopio, General Manager, Church Facilities Conference & Expo (CFX); Operations Manager for WFX, 2006-2010; Show Director for The United States Institute for Theatre Technology, 2012- 2019
How did CFX Expo come about?
Ron Procopio: CFX came together as the stars aligning at the right time. The WFX event had been in decline and asked me to consult and give some feedback. It became evident that WFX [Worship Facilities Conference & Expo] would either close or be sold. I reached out to my friends at EH Media to discuss partnering to either purchase or replace WFX. After weeks of back-and-forth with a variety of companies and people, it was decided that we would begin with a fresh, new event to replace the Worship Facilities Conference & Expo: CFX Expo.
What are the overall objectives of CFX Expo?
Procopio: We wanted to bring back the original feeling and focus of what WFX was at the beginning: a place for those who serve God to come to learn how to best use technology, improve their facilities, and manage the incredible amount of work all of that takes. Our goal is to create a warm, welcoming community focused on showcasing how to get the message of God across to a congregation.
On a typical church staff, who is most likely to benefit from CFX?
Procopio: The technical production teams will benefit from the Tech track. They’ll get lighting, audio, video and streaming sessions by industry leaders who have graciously agreed to participate.
Facilities and operations managers will benefit from sessions in the Facilities track, where we’ll focus on communications, emergency procedures, design-build and more.
All those groups — as well as senior church leaders — will also benefit from the Leadership and Management track, which focuses on volunteer recruiting, project management, financial management, and more. We have always had some senior pastors and executive pastors attend WFX. We even used to host a Pastors’ Forum. But the focus was definitely on technologies and facilities. Now, we’re looking at Leadership and Management as an equal one-third of the conference program.
What types of vendors and suppliers are you expecting around the Leadership & Management track?
Procopio: We’re expecting companies that specialize in e-giving, project management, software — even live streaming, because it’s become such a huge component of our COVID-19 world. Mostly, we’re bringing onboard companies who focus on improving attendees’ managerial capacity and day-to-day effectiveness.
Is there a benefit for an executive pastor, pastor, or church administrator attending the Tech and Facilities tracks, as well?
Procopio: You know what’s funny? [A presenter] just submitted his session for the expo, and it will focus on leadership teams and service production becoming two sides of the same coin — how they can work together to understand each other’s language. As soon as I heard it, I thought, That’s everything these conferences have been missing. It speaks to executive pastors; technology isn’t their bread and butter, but it bridges that gap. Ultimately, AV is only a vehicle for pastors to use to get their message across. Having a vested interest in it is innate for them.
Obviously, COVID-19 is taking its toll on in-person conferences and events. How is your team ensuring a safe experience?
Carefully, is the short answer! With the recent increase in cases in Texas, hesitancy for our exhibitors to travel, and the willingness of the convention center to work with us, we have decided to postpone CFX Conference & Expo to September 21-22, 2021. It’s disappointing, but this is why we created a plan A, B and C — not only for this year, but thinking of years to come.
It has changed our entire outlook as a company. We started thinking we were creating an event, but we quickly adapted to become a multimedia company. We now have two writers helping us create case studies and articles, and we have monthly podcasts, webinars, and now are working on virtual events. It has been amazing in such a short time.
We will be launching a series of virtual ‘events’ beginning with the content we created for this fall. I use the quotes because it’s a two-month-long experience/platform rather than a one- or two-day intensive event. Think Netflix meets Facebook: live sessions that become on-demand immediately after; a virtual expo floor where you can have video calls with exhibitors; peer-to-peer networking — 24 hours a day for two months.
As a society, we’ve become accustomed to our education and entertainment when and where we want it. So, we’ve developed a system that allows for that to happen. You can watch the live sessions for 1 hour each day or binge 20 hours of content over a weekend.
With the physical event, we now have 16 months to build something very exciting and special!
Are there resources available to help people familiarize themselves with CFX and its mission?
Right now, the best resource is www.churchfacilitiesexpo.com. Our social media channels also have up-to-date news about the event and the industry-at-large. We’ll be launching a mobile app at the end of July, so check for that in your app stores.