I was excited to attend PCMA’s Omnichannel Convening Leaders event last week. Having attended more than 20 of PCMA’s Annual Meetings over the years (both in person and virtually), I expected high energy, experimental delivery and great content. I wasn’t expecting to connect with my friends or to feel the same high I get from the in-person meetings. Those expectations were largely met.
The Great: Global Reach and Main-Stage Experiences
Applause to PCMA for engaging the global business events community and for the diversity of speakers and formats offered during CL. The Marina Bay Sands stage and production in Singapore were sharp, cool and well executed. We in the U.S. still have a lot to learn from our friends in Asia, so congrats to them! This, by design, was the most truly global event in our industry and the participation from so many outside the U.S. is refreshing and welcome.
Props also for more of the “Omnichannel” approach: There were other in-person gatherings in cities smattered across the U.S. PCMA creatively tied these live sessions into the overall program, allowing us virtual attendees to glimpse the possibilities for our own hybrid events.
The main-stage speakers were diverse, challenged conventional wisdom and for the most part very engaging. My personal favorite was Julia Gillard, former Australian Prime Minister, in a fascinating and authentic conversation with PCMA Emcee, Holly Ransom (pictured above, photo credit to PCMA). While many in the chat room loved the intimate conversation between star athletes Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird, I found it a little insular and felt they missed an opportunity to drive home some lessons learned from their activism. Kudos to PCMA for giving these two accomplished women a platform regardless of the format.
The Good: Connections Made
One component that worked really well for me were the microcommunities. I engaged with a small group of pre-selected peers (by PCMA, through profile questions we answered during registration), for 30 minutes each day of the event. Unfortunately, by the time the information was shared, many had scheduling conflicts. This is a tricky area to get right and I’ve heard from others that their groups didn’t come together as well as mine did.
The popularity and sold-out status of the “Conversation Starters,” which were open-ended question sessions limited to 40 participants, tells me that PCMA captured a key element of what we are all craving: Opportunities to discuss important and timely questions and concern. By the last day, demand outstripped supply.
The Not So: Missing Links
One key takeaway I heard from several experienced Event Strategists was that PCMA missed the mark on highlighting associations and the stories/lessons from virtual events in 2020. PCMA has shifted from what used to be the core membership category (Association Event Leaders) to the more general “Business Event Professional.” This is not a criticism of the “big tent” strategy to amplify our industry impact, but an observation based on comments and content review.
If PCMA wants to be the primary place where association leaders come together to address internal and external challenges, then we need to see more intentionality around the content that supports this sector. I know that leaders in the association event space are finding other forums in which to connect, share and develop relationships. The conversations and connections that directly enrich events and help us solve common business challenges need to be nurtured and expanded and I hope PCMA can re-focus on fulfilling that need.
PCMA has a talented and forward-looking Board, Foundation and Staff. All of them deserve kudos for a very different 2021 Convening Leaders and for the work they have done during this extremely challenging disruption in our industry. We have a monumental opportunity to innovate, improve and deliver better events in the future and I, for one, am inspired, hopeful and eager to participate.
What are some of your great, good or not-so-good takeaways from PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2021?