Last week I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Catalyst 2010 conference in Atlanta, Ga. It was an experience I hope to never forget. However, any time you attend a conference, the danger is to walk away and ultimately forget everything by moving on in life without letting it all sink in. I spent the day on Sunday digesting the information, re-reading notes, and reviewing things I thought were important. With so many free books, bags of materials and resources now in my possession, the test is trying to distinguish the difference between what is useful and what is useless. Despite this challenge, one mistake I do not want to make is to walk away and forget about what I experienced. There are 3 areas from this conference that I would like to focus on here: Speakers, Entertainment, Atmosphere.
The theme of Catalyst 2010 was the “Tension is Good”. This can apply to any organization, church, business, or non-profit. This year Catalyst gave us the honor of sitting at the table with Andy Stanley, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, Perry Noble, Craig Groeschel, TD Jakes, and many other great speakers over a 2 day period. It would be impossible to put into words everything we were taught, that would certainly create plenty of tension as I write this. Instead, I will mention the one thing from a few speakers that I want to hold onto:
Andy Stanley: Esau traded inheritance (wealth), authority (power), and blessings (glory) for a bowl of stew. Appetites can destroy us if not controlled. What is your bowl of stew? Rest of Bible could have read “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau”.
Daniel Pink: The problem with annual reviews is they are annual. Institute DIY (Do it yourself) reviews every 30 days. Set goals and evaluate progress.
Christine Caine: Step into the darkness, how else will anyone see your light.
Seth Godin: Graceful is being that person that when you leave the room, others are sad to see you leave.
Francis Chan: Don’t over-analyze the Bible, take it at face value.
Perry Noble: If it’s explainable, God didn’t do it
Craig Groeschel: Honor publically leads to influence privately.
TD Jakes: People that hang on the corner have a limited worldview; they think the whole world is the corner they hang on.
Andy Stanley: Organizational tension is essential to progress.
The above is just a snapshot of what we learned. It was the most intense, life-filling, God-breathed, motivating, leadership conference I have ever attended. This was definitely the “meat and potatoes” part of the event, and without anything else happening, this made the conference worth every penny. As a leader, this conference helped me to understand that tension is not a bad thing; in fact, tension can ultimately be great for your organization if managed properly. Embrace tension. The tension is good.
As a first-time Catalyst attendee, one thing I was not expecting was the amount of entertainment that would be on display for our enjoyment. Catalyst did a fantastic job of keeping things exciting in between all the speakers. Our emcees for the week were Reggie Joiner and Lanny Donoho. These two guys had amazing chemistry and were hilarious as they went back and forth with Larry being silly and Reggie constantly getting Larry back on track. They spent most of their time making announcements, doing promotions of available products, or setting up the next segment. For instance, after an interview with the writer from the movies Braveheart and Secretariat, Lanny came riding out on a donkey, with his face painted like William Wallace, and dressed like a jockey. He spoke in a Scottish accent with music from Braveheart playing. After getting the crowd all fired up he said “now please get me off me ass and back on stage where I’m comfortable”. They knew how to get our attention, make us laugh, and get us focused on what was yet to come. Perfect for that position. They were well prepared and seasoned vets in this role.
There were also two “b-team” emcees. I had the privilege of meeting these two guys. They are Tripp Crosby and Tyler Stanton. Tyler is a much better entertainer than he is at picking winners in our football pool, but that’s another post for another day. They had bowl cuts… yes like the ones we had in Junior High and they made announcements in 3D, which was a cool twist to actually get us interested in announcements. They also performed two hilarious songs: “I’m Bowling” (to explain the reason for their hair -which also features Chris Tomlin) and “We aren’t the World”. These guys cracked me up all week.
Other entertainment (and I’m not making this stuff up) included the following:
Unicycler – riding around and ultimately flipping plates and cups from feet to head
Jumpers – Guys on large trampolines in ski’s and snowboards performing tricks to Van Halen’s JUMP
Knife Thrower – Threw knives at his assistant to pop balloons strategically placed around her body
Cannon Shoot – Dude was literally shot out of a cannon across the entire arena into a large net
Comedian – Michael Jr. (I dare you to look this guy up online and try not laughing)
I will admit, I was not expecting this amount of entertainment. I am thankful it was included in the program because not only did it provide a “wow factor”, but it also gave us an opportunity to prevent our minds from getting so overwhelmed from all of the great speakers. It provided a break in the action. It was the perfect appetizer or dessert for the main course. I cannot imagine what kind of things they are already planning for next year.
From the second I got out of my car on Thursday morning at 7 am (doors opened at 8:15), I knew I was in for a treat. From the parking garage I could hear the bass booming and the crowd cheering, the party had begun. There was a DJ with Tripp, Tyler and Carlos Whittaker (@loswhit) on an outside stage hosting competitions and giving away plenty of free stuff. At this point, people were also playing on huge bungee chords sending them flying into the air. There was free coffee being passed out and there was a buzz in the air almost like we were about to attend some sort of sporting event. There were ping-pong tables, and cornhole set up around the arena. There were tailgaters in the parking lot. The average age of the attenders appeared to be in the 25-30 yr old range and most people were dressed very casually. It certainly had a “college” feel to it.
As the week went along, I was following on twitter (#Cat10), and it was interesting to find out that such great leaders that were not speaking were also in attendance. Great speakers like Louie Giglio and Clayton King just to name a few were sitting in the crowd just like me. I had the opportunity to meet two of my favorite bloggers, Jon Acuff and Bryan Allain. I have “known” Bryan for over a year now, but this was the first time to meet him face to face. He is one of the funniest guys I have ever met – and will most certainly soon have a book with his name on the cover. To be in a room with 13,000 other leaders and to walk around the concourse brushing shoulders with these amazing people was truly an encounter I will never forget.
My experience at Catalyst could not possibly be summed up in one blog post. The worship was outstanding and we were introduced to many great non-profit organizations that are doing tremendous things in our world to help those in need and spread the gospel of Jesus. I will carry the things I learned with me for a long time – hopefully to my grave. I am thankful I have the audio files from each speaker and I will definitely be listening to some of the messages again and again to remind me of the things I was taught. I would certainly recommend Catalyst to anyone in leadership or with a desire to make a difference. Whether in church or the business world, make the sacrifice and do what it takes to attend next year. I would find it hard to believe you could get this same experience at another conference.
Thank you so much Catalyst 2010… I hope you see you again next year.