During the closing minutes of the Annual Council business meeting on October 12, 2021, Paul Douglas, treasurer of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and Tim Aka, associate treasurer and director of investments for the General Conference (GC), shared the history behind a new virtual exhibit experience that the GC Session will feature in June 2022.
“In preparation for the GC Session that was postponed to May 2021,” Douglas reported, “the decision was made to move the exhibition hall to a virtual exhibit. As you know, even that Session was postponed. The team working on the virtual exhibition hall did not get discouraged but repurposed their time and energies into convening a virtual global camp meeting.”
The inaugural Global Camp Meeting, held May 19-23, drew thousands of members from around the world who participated in more than 400 seminars on topics such as theology, education, mission, and health, and visited more than 100 interactive booths in the online exhibit hall.
While this first endeavor was considered a success, it provided some lessons that event organizer Aka and his team are implementing for the virtual exhibition hall at the GC Session in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, where the event will take place.
“We’re really excited about the virtual exhibition coming up,” Aka said, “but what we’re trying to do is build a system for gathering in the church in a new way and trying to connect us — members, leaders, businesses, organizations — not just for one event, but throughout the year, with sharing materials and content in a way we’ve never done before.”
The Adventist Collective
One of the new resources Aka highlighted is Adventist Collective, an online gallery containing hundreds of presentations and recordings from the Global Camp Meeting that members can access at any time.
A promotional video shown to Annual Council delegates gave more detail. “The Adventist Collective provides a collaborative space where church organizations from around the world can share excellent resources with members, leaders, and faith seekers. Presentations from the Global Camp Meeting will continue to impact and inform our members long after the actual event. The Collective will be a useful means for continuing to expand our reach through digital ministry, for the church, and participants of virtual events,” the narration explained.
Virtual Exhibition Experience
The large-scale online exhibition experience at GC Session 2022 will allow attendees to virtually do just about anything at a booth that they could do in person.
A promotional video produced by Aka’s team explains, “When visitors come to an online booth, they will be welcomed with a short introductory video. Booth representatives will know when visitors arrive and will be able to start a conversation using text or video chats in real time. Exhibitors will also be able to provide resources, videos, presentations, and seminars at their booth.”
Another feature is a poster presentation hall, “which allows exhibitors to share content in a unique way through multimedia virtual posters. For example, a university may host poster presentations about recent research studies or publications. Visitors will enjoy the multimedia poster experience through embedded text, videos, and downloadable resources.”
Additional resources include a marketplace where visitors can purchase booth-specific merchandise (books, health products, clothes), play interactive games, and take pictures through a virtual photo booth.
“Sometimes, when you do these entrepreneurial things, it’s like building an airplane while it’s flying,” Aka said. “We’re adding new things as we go, and we’re excited about that. It’s a little scary, but it’s helping us move forward in a new direction and allows us to do new, creative things.”
According to Adventist Church officers, due to the coronavirus, the “GC Session will be the first time where general attendees are not openly encouraged to attend, as we feel obligated to protect the health and safety of the members of our world church. The usual ancillary meetings, [in-person] exhibition booths, and other activities are not being planned but only the session itself [based on social distancing regulations that might reduce the number of attendees allowed for this gathering].”
The entire program will be livestreamed June 6-11, 2022, via the official GC Session website. The Virtual Exhibition Experience will also be available on the Session website.