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Diane Degnan

Attending General Conference 2016: What you need to know

United Methodist Communications
Office of Public Information
umcpresscenter.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 26, 2016

Portland, Oregon: A little preparation can help your General Conference experience go more smoothly and save some time when you arrive in Portland. The Commission on the General Conference wants delegates, staff and guests to be aware of what’s new and what to expect.

WiFi and cell coverage
Technology will be a constant companion of attendees at the 2016 General Conference, and the technology team at United Methodist Communications is planning for an estimated 4,000-5,000 wireless connected devices. There will be free WiFi available throughout the convention center via 200+ wireless access points. But some well-marked areas—including the plenary hall—will support 5-gigahertz (GHz) frequencies only. Some older devices have 2.4 GHz network capability only. 

This means smartphones, tablets and laptops will connect to wireless internet access in the plenary hall if they support 5-GHz, but you won’t be able to connect to the wireless network in those areas if your device uses 2.4-GHz. Personal hotspots won’t work in those areas either. The 2.4-GHz frequency access will be available outside of the plenary hall and throughout most areas of the conference center. Check with your device manufacturer to see which frequency your device uses and whether an adapter is available.

Cell phone service may be reduced when in the center of the convention center building (including the plenary hall), limiting coverage for calls and text messaging. Internet-based messaging services such as Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger can provide alternative communication channels.

Conference attendees that need technology-related assistance are invited to drop by several United Methodist Communications Technology Support booths outside of Exhibit Hall C throughout the conference.

Security and safety
To assure the safety and security of attendees, the Executive Committee of the Commission on the General Conference made the decision to not allow guns in the Oregon Convention Center for the duration of the event. This hasn’t been an issue at past events where weapons were not allowed by the convention facilities or due to local laws. Though the State of Oregon allows open carry of guns, the Commission on The General Conference as the sole renter of the convention center exercised the option to disallow guns.

To enforce this provision, entrances into the convention center will be limited to Holladay Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and parking garage P1 and P2 East only. Security personnel will be checking for guns for all persons entering the convention center through the use of wands and inspecting bags.

Translation
In the past, English-speaking delegates did not use headsets and language translations were done over the speaker system for all to hear. This year, all delegates will receive a headset to listen to simultaneous language translations throughout the conference, though they can use it with their own personal earbuds if desired.

Non-delegate attendees can also listen to translations in the plenary hall by downloading the free Hearing Hotspot app, available for Apple and Android devices – but only if your device uses 5 GHz. Save time by downloading it now. You’ll also need your own earbuds or headphones to listen.

Transportation
From May 8-16, the MAX service in downtown Portland will have reduced frequency as improvements are made along 1st Avenue. During this time, fewer trains will be running and trains are expected to be more crowded, so be sure to allow enough time to get where you are going. There are several transit apps that can help you stay on schedule.

Here are the MAX directions that are affected by the repairs (see map):

  • Courtyard Portland City Center - Catch blue or red train only from SW 6th & Pine MAX Station. Disembark at Oregon Convention Center.
  • The Benson Hotel - Catch blue or red train only from SW 6th & Pine MAX Station. Disembark at Oregon Convention Center.
  • The Westin Portland - Catch blue or red train only from Pioneer Place/SW 6th Avenue MAX Station. Disembark at Oregon Convention Center.
  • Hotel Rose – Either catch blue or red train only from Pioneer Place/SW 6th Avenue MAX Station. Disembark at Oregon Convention Center or catch Temporary Shuttle at SW 2nd & Yamhill. Disembark at Rose Quarter and walk to the Oregon Convention Center.
  • The Nines - Catch blue or red train only from Pioneer Place/SW 6th Avenue MAX Station. Disembark at Oregon Convention Center.
  • Hilton Portland & Executive Tower – Catch blue or red train only from Pioneer Place/SW 6th Avenue MAX Station. Disembark at Oregon Convention Center.
  • Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront - Catch blue or red train only from SW 6th & Madison MAX Station. Disembark at Oregon Convention Center.

Visitor registration
Visitors at General Conference are not required to register, but if they would like a badge and program book, they may choose to pre-register online through May 5 or register on-site at the Oregon Convention Center beginning May 9 at 8:00 a.m. for a cost of $10. Pre-registered guests may pick up their badges at the registration booth.

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About General Conference
The General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church, and meets once every four years to determine the denomination's future direction, consider revisions to church law, and approve plans and budgets for church-wide programs. The 2016 meeting will take place May 10-20 at the Oregon Convention Center. 


Media contact:
Diane Degnan ddegnan@umcom.org 
615-742-5406 (o) 615-483-1765 (c)