NRB 2021 is the upcoming event of the National Religious Broadcasters. The organization is moving ahead with a physical event. Radio World asked Daniel Darling, senior VP of communications for NRB, about its plans.
Radio World: NRB 2021 is slated for March, and we understand the organization intends to hold it in person, which would make it one of the first of our industry’s large events to go back to “boots on the ground.” What’s NRB’s thinking about this decision, and could it change?
Daniel Darling: We’ve been in consultation with our members and with the property (Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas) and are committed to following the protocols for the state of Texas. We feel very confident about March for a few reasons. First, there are several Christian gatherings of our size planned for the early spring window, including some in Texas. Many of our peers have opted to do virtual events, though they canceled gatherings that were in fall of 2020 or early 2021. We feel March is a good runway for us, given the expectation that a vaccine will likely have at least been distributed to the vulnerable population and the availability of new treatments.
The uniqueness of the NRB convention is the networking across a range of Christian media professionals. Our content is top-notch and some could be streamed online, but you cannot replace the in-person gathering, networking, and equipping that makes NRB special. So we anticipate a great turnout and a successful NRB 2021.
RW: What are your members and exhibitors telling you so far about their own intentions to travel and to be there, or any concerns they have?
Darling: We’ve surveyed our members a few times and we are hearing more and more positive feedback about the convention in March. There is a pent-up demand for those on our industry to meet with peers, to build partnerships, and to attend in-person gatherings. Our registration and sponsorship numbers are ahead of pace historically so we are cautiously optimistic for this year.
RW: The city and venue are different this year; tell us about that and about the benefits of the change.
Darling: The NRB convention has rotated cities in the past, though has most often been in Nashville. Texas is a really good location for us, as many of our members are headquartered either in the state or within driving distance or easy flying distance. Like Nashville, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is a major hub for evangelical ministries and institutions. We’re also just thrilled with the venue: The Gaylord Texan. It is a wonderful meeting place with plenty of event and hotel space to ensure a safe, comfortable, and memorable gathering.
RW: What are the major show themes or issues that sessions of the convention are expected to explore?
Darling: We are continuing to serve our mission to both equip and advocate. On the equipping side, we’ll have content to equip a range of Christian media professionals, from radio and TV broadcasting to digital media such as podcasting, streaming, and social media. We also have a really large film presence with filmmakers showcasing a variety of faith-based films and new TV and streaming content. This year we are honored to host the ICVM Crown awards for Christian film.
We are also aware of how COVID has really pushed many churches and Christian ministries to take the next step in their digital presence, so we’ve made an intentional effort to emphasize digital innovation, with increased workshops on podcasting, streaming, and other digital tools. We’ve got experts from the various platforms, such as Faithlife, Rightnow Media, Vimeo and many others.
And on the advocacy side, we’ll have conversations about platform censorship, Section 320, FCC, rural broadband, religious liberty, and other topics.
RW: The pandemic has meant changes in the workflow for many organizations throughout the world of radio. Within the world of Christian broadcasting specifically, how has that played out, and how are daily operations different now than they were eight months ago?
Darling: We are hearing from our members how they’ve been forced to be innovative in terms of workflows. Many of our radio stations had to quickly move to a work from home model with hosts broadcasting from their homes. And our TV stations have had to innovate as well. Thankfully, we have very creative members who find new ways to broadcast, record, and create content.
And of course many of our members have continued a work from home model that many see as an ongoing option. COVID-19 has produced a major disruption in both the way we work and the advancing of innovation.
RW: There’s a “racial reconciliation panel” on the show agenda, what does that involve?
Darling: With the ongoing racial tension and the conversations that have arisen this year, NRB wants to help lead both the church and in society toward racial unity. So this panel will help us hear, listen, and move forward as diverse members share their experiences.
RW: How many attendees and exhibitors do you expect?
Darling: We expect a turnout close to what we’ve seen in previous years, several thousand attendees and hundreds of sponsors, though we are ever mindful of the unique conditions we are in during a global pandemic.
Update: Darling told Radio World in late November that NRB, Marriot, the Gaylord Texan and local authorities continue to plan to hold the show. “We’ve been encouraged by the way Marriot has been able to host events in a safe way across their properties and believe we can do the same. We also believe the timeline in March is a good one for us, as we believe that a good percentage of the population will have received the vaccine, particularly the most vulnerable.”