Technology at the 57th General Conference Session in Toronto
by Doris Stickle Burdick
Delegates voted the old-fashioned way—the upraised hand (though in Toronto those hands lifted a yellow voting card, ubiquitous at official business sessions). Hallway visits remained as always a delight of face-to-face greetings and quick conversations.
Technology took over communication of nearly every other type both on-site and with the rest of the world.
Never before have members everywhere had such broad and immediate online access to news, pictures, graphics, and video clips. Computers and the world church Webster provided them with a virtual Toronto 2000 General Conference Session experience as it happened. Webster traffic exceeded expectations to the extent that access to archived evening International Festival of Mission programs had to be dropped to increase availability of the program of the day. Ten to twelve thousand visitors came to the session2000.adventist.org site daily, according to Larry Turner, one of five young people on the Internet Services communication team. In addition, Lee Bennett, coordinator of the North American Division Press Photo Site, also kept visitors up-to-date at www.nadadventist.org/gcsession/
“The web coverage has been such an eye-opener to me,” wrote Jean Killer, a new church member living in Marina Del Rye, CA. “What a vision it has given me for the scope of mission and the impact the church has around the world,” her e-mail message continued. “Thank you for bringing the experience to me virtually.”
Cutting-edge communication technology and the Adventist Global Communication Network daily provided several hours of session programming via satellite to locations on several continents.
Adventist World Radio, an international broadcasting network, beamed live reports to stations around the world. Using electronic channels, the Adventist News Network provided dispatches to religious news editors worldwide. Helping to fill the communication pipelines, about 25 writers, photographers, and other public relations professionals worked on the General Conference communications team and an equal number on the North American Division communications staff.
In the exhibit halls at least 130 video screens and another 50 computer screens—and at least one slide projector—pictured ministries of every imaginable kind. Visitors clustered at the large glass windows of GCTV where live interview and editing studios hosted various guests. Sometimes it was a high-profile individual such as General Conference president Jan Paulsen or It Is Written speaker Mark Finley. At other times it was a guest from a far-away place with a story measuring up to those in the biblical book of Acts.
Another unusual vantage point in the exhibit area was the glassed-in workroom where Adventist Review staffers worked at a dozen or more computers to produce the General Conference Daily Bulletins.
And cell phones? The subterranean location of the exhibit halls slowed them down there, but elsewhere they were as common as video cameras.
“The technological advancements that this session has experienced are a tremendous contrast from five years ago in Utrecht,” commented C. Elwyn Planter, communication director for the Pacific Union Conference.
Doris Stickle Burdick served for the past 13 years as director of public relations at Southern Adventist University. As of September she has accepted to serve at Christian Record Services as director of Direct Mail.
Photos should be available in the package of photos.