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PCMA’s Annual Meeting Tests New Ideas and New Formats

Danica Tormohlen
, Editor-at-Large
January 23, 2013
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Orlando, FL – The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Convening Leaders 2013, which was held January 13-16 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, featured a variety of new ideas and new formats centered around this year’s theme: “Design, Innovate and Engage. “

“We expect to surpass last year’s record attendance,” said Deborah Sexton, FASAE, president and CEO, PCMA. “Final attendance numbers for 2013 won’t be verified until later this month.” In 2012, the event attracted 3,751 verified attendees to San Diego.

New in 2013

“Our members want us to take risks,” said Sexton. “They want us to innovate.” To that end, PCMA debuted The Show Reimagined, a two-hour experiential learning luncheon with technology demos, case studies and peer-to-peer exchanges about trade show management. Attendees could view 15-20 minute presentations in different sections of the exhibit hall. Presentations included: The Basics of RFID and the Benefits for Trade Shows; An Introduction to Location-Based Marketing for Trade Shows; and How McDonald’s Worldwide Convention Created a Journey of Engagement.

PCMA also added four new educational tracks, including PCMA Business School, Convene Presents, Corporate HQ and PCMA Education Foundation Presents. “We have a growing number of corporate event managers,” said Sexton. PCMA offered more than 15 hours of educational programming for this growing audience. Sessions covered a variety of topics, including: Taking Corporate Meetings & Events and Your Role to the Next Level; Corporate Planners: Earning and Maintaining a Seat at the Table; and Meetings That Matter:  Measurement Means Business.

In addition, PCMA debuted the Industry Business Forum for Local Leaders, an invitation-only event for convention center and destination marketing executives, as well as their local board members and policy makers. About 65 people attended the forum, which addressed industry issues and the impact on their organizations and local communities. Sexton plans take the Industry Business Forum on the road in 2013. Future dates and locations will be announced soon.

General Sessions and More

General sessions were held in the exhibit hall. The front section of the exhibit hall featured The PCMA Learning Lounge, which offered 15-minute programs on a variety of topics. Programs included Tech Zone, Common Ground, the Big Ideas Stage, In Practice, Industry In Brief and Advocacy Central. Topics included: Top Tips for Social Media Strategy; Implementing RFID; Presentation Tools Using Your iPad; and Social Gaming.

At the Opening General Session, Morten Hansen, co-author with Jim Collins of Great By Choice, talked about how organizations can thrive in uncertain times. Hansen, Collins and a team of 20 researchers spent nine years studying companies that rose to greatness despite difficult environments and rapid shifts in their industries. For example, he cited Southwest Airlines for its systematic, methodical and consistent operating practices. Southwest has a list of 10 policies it follows and sticks with them, he said.

Some organizations think they must change as the world changes, he said. “That is dead wrong,” said Hansen. “What we found is that winners change less then their competitors. The great companies change their list about 20% of the time. It is a combination of continuity and change that creates great performance.”

On Tuesday, January 15, Stephane Garelli, professor at University of Lausanne and director of the International Institute for Management Development’s World Competitiveness Center, discussed the fragmentation of the global economy and provided an economic outlook for 2013 and beyond. “The world is not in sync anymore,” said Garelli. “There is some inflation and some deflation. You name it, you have it. We need a lot of flexibility in the business model.” He said taxation will be a hot issue for the future, as governments around the world deal with rising debt burdens.

On the final day, Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author of The World is Flat, talked about a fundamental revolution in the labor market. “I’m 59, and when I graduated from college, I just had to find a job,” said Friedman. “I told my kids that they have to invent their jobs. If they find a job, they have to invent and reinvent that job to advance in it. That’s a big change.”

Friedman also discussed highlights from his latest book, That Used to Be Us:  How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. “If we go weak as a country, your kids will not grow up in a different America, but in a fundamentally different world ordered by China and Russia or, more importantly, a world ordered by no one at all,” he said.

Expanded Hybrid Event Offerings

PCMA featured 19 keynotes and concurrent sessions that were simulcast live online for free. In addition, PCMA offered an All Access Pass, featuring on-demand archived digital content for $99.95 if purchased before the close of the meeting or $199.95 after the meeting.

“Three days before the event opened, we had about 700 people registered for the hybrid event,” said Sexton. “That preliminary number is about 30% higher than last year. I am absolutely convinced that digital events will drive attendance to face-to-face.”

Last year, 225 virtual attendees spent more than 10 hours logged into sessions, compared to 109 in 2011. Total hours spent in virtual sessions increased from 3,123 in 2011 to 5,123 in 2012. At PCMA's town hall meeting, Sexton said that more than 550 people had spent "a significant" amount of time viewing Monday's virtual sessions.

According to a survey of registrants in 2012, more than 300 indicated they were influenced to attend Convening Leaders in person based on their previous participation in a PCMA virtual or hybrid meeting; of those, 112 had either never attended Convening Leaders or had not done so in the past six years.

Networking: Orlando Style

PCMA kicked off the meeting with an opening reception at SeaWorld Orlando on Sunday, January 13. The event featured a variety of food, entertainment and experiences for attendees. Some industry professionals braved Manta, a thrilling one-of-a-kind flying coaster, while others enjoyed the Shamu Rocks show.

This year’s Party With A Purpose featured the Spazmatics, an ‘80s cover band, at Hard Rock Live Orlando. More than 1,500 attendees participated, raising $25,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida. John Patronski, executive vice president, Global Experience Specialists (GES), presented a check to the organization at Tuesday’s general session.

On Tuesday, January 15, PCMA held a networking reception at Universal Studios Florida. Attendees enjoyed food, music and attractions at the premier movie- and TV-based theme park. The evening closed with Universal’s brand new Cinematic Spectacular Show, reliving 100 years of movie memories and iconic films featuring a water, fire and laser show.

PCMA announced that its 2016 annual meeting will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Next year’s PCMA Convening Leaders will be held in January 12-15, 2014, at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

Reach Deborah at (312) 423-7262 or deborah.sexton@pcma.org

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