NAD Communicators to Strike Up a Conversation at Convention

Dan Weber, director of communication for the North American Division, gives us the lowdown on the Society of Adventist Communicators' annual convention next weekend, following Annual Council.

Question: The Society of Adventist Communicators is getting together for its annual convention next weekend, October 15 through 17, just outside Washington, DC, in Chantilly, Virginia. Who will be there? What can attendees expect at this event?

Answer: The majority of the people attending our convention are professionals working in the fields of corporate communication, public relations, marketing, video production, photographers, writers and educators. The second group is made up of students studying in these same fields and looking to create networking opportunities as they near the end of their education.

We offer workshops, keynote presentations and the opportunity for people passionate about communication to come together and learn from each other.

You are the organizer of the SAC convention. Is it always the NAD communication director's job? What takes the most work in preparation for the three-day get-together?

SAC was originally the Society of Southern Adventist Communicators and about 15 years ago, the North American Division offered to help coordinate the event so that everyone in the division territory could benefit from the convention. The NAD Office of Communication has had a direct hand in coordinating the event for the past 8-10 years.

George Johnson, the previous NAD Communication Director, coordinated the event when he was first the Associate Director and then when he became Director in 2010. I inherited the role in 2014 when I became Communication Director.

I serve as the Executive Director of SAC, but we have a board that really makes all the larger decisions effecting SAC. We meet once a month via teleconference and there are roughly 15 members on the board. The majority of our time is spent in selecting and recruiting speakers for SAC and then focusing on the themes that we will focus on each year. We also decide where to hold the convention, after a selection process that includes several site visits to potential locations. When considering where to hold SAC, we look at the hotel venue, cost of flights into the location, if it is easy to get to, the general meeting room and workshops layout and whether the venue can provide high-quality vegetarian food. I probably spend about three months a year on preparation for SAC.

The Society of Adventist Communicators officially began in 1999, growing out of the Southern Society of Adventist Communicators. Why do you think this organization is needed and what does it accomplish? How does it benefit the Adventist church?

Since it’s inception, SAC has always been about education, thus it naturally grew into something that would help to promote our communication students and hopefully lead to more employment opportunities for them.

The most important aspects of SAC are the opportunities that are provided to our students in the areas of training, networking and potential employment. I really want to use SAC to grow the future communicators in the Church.

The Society is focused on North America. Why not more global? Will anyone be attending the convention from another country?

We have many attendees from countries overseas each year. We have never marketed SAC as an international convention because it has been based in the NAD, and also because the GC has its own GAiN conference each year and we don’t want to compete with that. I believe that each one plays an important role in church communication education.

A few years ago the Inter-American Division approached us about holding an SAC Convention in their division and we were happy to let them use the SAC name. They had a very successful convention with more than 400 people attending. Next year they will be holding one in Puerto Rico and I will be one of their keynote speakers.

A long list of awards will be given out at the convention. Can you tell us a little bit about those awards, and who might expect to be honored? Do you have lots of entries this year?

This year we had about 200 entries and will probably give away around 25 awards. The competition is tough each year. We also will give awards for Lifetime Achievement, Student of the Year, Young Professional, the Reger Smith Cutting Edge Award (for creativity) and the Award Excellence for the best submission each year. The awards are judged by a panel of industry experts, representing a variety of fields and disciplines.

Who pays for the convention?

The cost of the convention is covered by the fees each attendee pays, plus sponsorships from organizations that we allow to promote themselves at the convention. The North American Division doesn’t provide any direct funds to support the convention. When we do site visits to potential locations, those costs are covered by our work travel accounts.

What is the most fun thing about the convention? How is it different from other conferences?

My favorite part of the convention is being able to meet new people and help them grow and increase their communication skills. Every year some one comes up to me and says “Thank you, I learned so much this year.” Hearing that makes all the hard work worthwhile.

What gives you the biggest headache as the convention approaches?

Trying to meet all the deadlines is the biggest challenge each year. There are so many things that need to be done to make the convention successful. But afterwards, it is all worth it.

What do you feel is your most important task as North American Division Communication Director? What do you enjoy most about your job?

That’s a tough question! My office oversees a vast variety of projects, from SAC to the SONScreen Film Festival, running our NAD Studio, doing PR and crisis situation management, media requests, writing articles and managing the NAD content in the NAD Adventist World, to anything else that always pops up at the last second. The biggest challenge is keeping on top of everything.

What do you believe defines a good communicator?

A good communicator is someone who is willing to adapt, to grow and learn new technologies. Once you become static and stop learning, this field will quickly pass you by. That’s one of the reasons we run SAC. We want to provide opportunities for communicators to learn new skills and grow in their professional field. That’s why it’s important to have the students involved. While to are learning from the professionals in the field, they can also share what they are learning in school. It’s a unique relationship that is beneficial to all parties involved. Last year we had a student from Southern help teach a photography class. I even learned something and I’ve been a photographer for more than 30 years. It was a lot of fun!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7119

this reminds me of King David fleeing for his life. A great battle is fought between his forces and his son’s. the battle ends in King David’s favor. Two runners ran to tell David the news. the faster runner was not given a message, but he out ran the one with the news. all the first one could say is he saw and hear a great battle. he was asked to stand aside. the second one announced a great victory for David… Communication skills must be matched with a message… Never in the history of Adventism has there been such a mix of messages…Brimsnead 1 with embellishment is running ahead. it is now the tour de force… good luck at your conference. tom z

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I attended a couple of SAC Conventions back some 20+ years ago and found them very helpful and informative. Our WA Conference has an excellent Communications director, Heidi Baumgartner, who will probably come home with an award of some sort! Wish I could be there!

Communication, or lack of, is one of the major challenges we face as a church. The lack of open, timely, ethical, and open communication was evident in our “get together” at San Antonio and now we are doing it again in this GC Autumn Council.
Communication is the absolutely indispensable leadership discipline. But, too often, pastoral leaders and professional communicators get mired in tactics, and fail to influence public attitudes in the ways that would help them the most. Communication should be about the transfer of meaning. We are not teaching our church leaders how to communicate effectively with each other. The nuances of culture, technology, politics, finance, fundraising, peer review are all about communication.

In planning for communication to take place it would seem that our GC leadership wants someone to do PR, not public engagement. These are different, and it’s an important distinction. They want someone to help increase the public understanding of Adventism, and are quite open that the role is designed to help increase public support for that purpose. But public engagement is about more than such advertising. It’s about building space for discussion and involvement and dialogue, not just publicity. An engagement approach also acknowledges that attempts by the faith community to get everyone to like them rarely works as a system for building trust, and isn’t really that useful anyway. At its most simple, engagement is two-way, not top-down. But part of the point is that belief and faith practices in society shouldn’t be managed as rigidly as any such simple model can describe. Rather, engagement is about opening up a life of meaning and inspiring dialogue and conversation as opposed to simply offering a series of sales patriarchs with another program that will talk down to us.

We need to practice informed communications on how to orient on audiences, recognize their most critical concerns, and successfully communicate on meeting them at the point of their needs. Communication has power, but, as with any powerful tool, it needs to be used effectively or it can cause significant self-inflicted harm.