2018 RCMA Conference in Omaha

Trip Report: 2018 RCMA Conference in Omaha, Nebraska

Posted By On 21 Feb 2018

Conferences & Accommodations at UBC attended the 2018 Annual RCMA Emerge Conference this year in Omaha Nebraska as an exhibitor and conference attendee. Our very own Ria Verzosa, Director of Groups, shares her experience at the event.

Omaha said “Hello” and opened its doors for over 500 meeting planners and members of RCMA (Religious Conference Management Association) to Emerge 2018, its annual conference. The conference brings together meeting planners, unique venues, and individuals from the travel and tourism industry for strategic networking, educational sessions, inspirational keynote speakers, and to have a good time in the charming host city of Omaha. This was my second year attending RCMA and I was looking forward to several things: connecting with the people I met with from the previous year, joining the educational break-out sessions, attending the amazing and thought-provoking keynote speaking sessions, and exploring the city of Omaha.

UBC has been a member of RCMA for a number of years, and as a university we see the value in partnering with a highly regarded and well attended event, and exhibiting a booth at the event. The host planners of RCMA are both professional and friendly, and exhibitors like myself are treated as partners in making their events a success. Our university has hosted a number of faith based programs as our campus is conducive to hosting medium to large conferences and retreats in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. We also have a variety of accommodation options of all types for visitors to Vancouver.

I arrived in Omaha on chilly Monday night and was surprised that the hotel was only an eight minute shuttle ride from the airport. We were housed at the Hilton Omaha, which had a skybridge connecting to the CenturyLink Convention Centre. On Tuesday morning, as I walked to the Registration table, I was greeted with a hug by Harry Schmidt, President and CEO. I met Harry at my first RCMA conference in 2016 held in Chicago, and seeing him again made me feel like we have known each other for many years. This hospitality is not just true of Harry but of all of the RCMA staff and volunteers whom I have met. The warm and inviting atmosphere is one of the many reasons why meeting planners and exhibitors like myself tend to come back year after year.

RCMA has the event running like clockwork. Registration is completed in less than five minutes, and then you are off to enjoy the fun activities at Emerge, which included a Head Shot Lounge and a Relax & Recharge Station. You can also put together a team and join the Step Challenge, or stop by the Gaming area to play giant Connect Four or let it ride online, giant Jenga and participate in a Cornhole competition, or a Scavenger Hunt. There is no dull moment in this conference.

RCMA ensures that it gives back to the community or city host. They have a program called, Impact Omaha, where attendees can volunteer a 3-hour time period to an outreach that they’d be interested in. Choices included jewelry sorting at the Salvation Army, meal prep and clothes sorting at the Open Door Mission, and assembling Activity Bags for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. In the afternoon, we were treated to a variety of Sightseeing tours that you can sign up for, and I joined the city tour. In beautiful Omaha, I saw the historic Old Market Entertainment District, Lewis & Clark Landing, St. Cecilia Cathedral, which is one of the largest cathedrals in the United States, and my personal favorite, billionaire Warren Buffet’s humble home. The city was as charming as its people, easy to navigate around, with lots of interesting places to keep you entertained.

The conference officially opened with a reception at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. It has the world’s largest indoor desert, which was under the world’s largest geodesic dome, and the largest indoor rainforest in North America. I walked around the aquarium with my two new friends, Cindy and Kateri, both seasoned meeting planners and long-time RCMA members and supporters. Cindy, Kateri and I definitely enjoyed feasting on the scrumptious food that was prepared for us, and so we only had time to visit the Aquarium and the penguins. We had such a relaxing and entertaining evening surrounded by beautiful jellyfish and aquatic creatures of all types. It was an excellent event to kick off the conference.

Immaculee Ilbagaza was one of the keynote speakers whom I found inspiring and motivating. Listening to her allowed me to have a different perspective and appreciation for life. Immaculee is a genocide survivor from Rwanda. She was locked up in a washroom with seven other women for three months, only to find out  that most of her family had been killed. This tragic event turned this woman into an influencer and initiator of hope and forgiveness. She is also a New York Times bestselling author. Her story inspired me to live a life of love and gratitude towards others, peace amidst differences and courage despite sufferings. Another speaker was Horst Schulze, Chairman and CEO of Capella Hotel, former President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Group. He is described as legend and leader in the service world, with a vision that has helped reshape concepts of customer service. His talk was practical and inspiring which stirred in me a desire to keep on developing a culture of customer service and engagement at my workplace.

There are many takeaways from the Emerge Conference, the most significant of which would be the connections made with the attendees. I made meaningful conversations about industry trends and challenges, received and gave professional personal advice to the individuals I’ve met. I was delighted to introduce the wonderful facilities and accommodations we have in Vancouver at UBC to conference attendees to. . I am already in touch with a few meeting planners who would consider bringing their religious conference to UBC Vancouver. Truly an exciting partnership for UBC and the religious market.
Overall the Emerge conference was a great success and I am looking forward to being engaged with RCMA throughout the year.

Author Bio:
Ria Verzosa is the Director of Groups at C&A. She is passionate about the religious and educational market that come to UBC. She enjoys coming alongside her clients and her team in the pre-planning stages of the program to create effective and efficient solutions for guests & delegates visiting UBC. Outside of work, you will see her greeting & serving  guests at their family restaurant that serves smoked meat sandwiches. She enjoys travelling, biking and spending time with her family, especially her two young nieces, Ella and Ada.