Key Takeaways from PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2020

The Professional Convention Management Association’s Convening Leaders in San Francisco In early January served as an engaging and energizing way to kick off a new year and a new decade. I’ve been a regular attendee and active volunteer in PCMA for over 25 years and continue to be impressed at their willingness to take risks and incubate innovative ideas. Here are a few items that are top-of-mind as I’ve reflected on the recent PCMA CL.

Innovate + Elevate Arena

The sponsor and partner activations were a key feature and a hub for the meeting. Although PCMA has long resisted the traditional expo hall, this new central area allowed attendees to find one another more effectively than in the more diffused settings in previous events.

Key takeaway: Consider creating a central zone at your event with features that enhance the attendee experience and engagement.

Show-floor Theaters

The three stages placed in the Innovate + Elevate Arena featured sessions of various length and content. Although it appeared that the intent was to utilize headphones at each of the theaters, they were not in play at any of the three sessions I attended. All had either Q&A throughout or interactive elements that would not have worked if the audience had been using headphones.

Key takeaway: Headphones work in one-way presentations of shorter duration or in session overflow rooms but not when interaction is integral to content delivery.

Finding and Making Lasting Connections with Your Tribe

Member engagement is critical if PCMA is going to be successful in realizing its vision of “driving global, economic and social transformation through business events.” While the general sessions effectively articulated this vision, I’m not convinced it can be sustained without improving internal connections among business event members.

The PCMA chapters are key to fostering member connections, but many are supplier heavy and the business events pros are not always engaged. Back in the day, PCMA was dependent on active volunteers to move issues and projects forward. Now, with a larger and more seasoned staff at headquarters, much of that work is done by staff or on a short-term project basis. A once robust committee structure has given way to a greater focus on connecting buyers and sellers, which helps the bottom line but doesn’t create longstanding connections between the event professionals. While not advocating a return to an outdated and unmanageable committee structure, I believe there are other ways of fostering connections and – more importantly – lasting relationships between event professionals.

Key takeaway:  PCMA needs to continue to find ways to connect business event professionals with one another, not just with their suppliers. The lesson is that loyalty and engagement is almost always driven by individuals, not companies. Finding ways to help attendees develop lasting connections and relationships will pay off in loyalty and repeat event attendance.

Does your organization care about relationships among members and more importantly how that can translate into loyalty? What steps are you taking to ensure that connections are not just one and done? 


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