In early January, our team was part of the largest attended Convening Leaders Conference in PCMA history. PCMA, Professional Convention Management Association, hosted its flagship education and networking event in San Diego, California from January 7-10, and we couldn’t have been happier to attend! We are equally excited to share our insights from PCMA Convening Leaders 2024.
As one of our team members, Jeff Golembiewski (Jeff G.) VP, Business Solutions & Partnerships, shared, “It was my 1st time attending Convening Leaders. I was struck by how open and inviting everyone was to making new connections and new friends. While many people have deep and long lasting existing relationships, everyone was thrilled to meet someone new and to welcome them into the community.”
Discover what we learned and what we brought to the table at this year’s CL24!
What exactly is PCMA?
PCMA is the world’s largest community for business events strategists, with a purpose to provide senior-level education, networking and market intelligence for the global business events industry. Though PCMA calls Chicago home, there are 17 North American chapters, with active members located across 59 countries.
The mission of PCMA is to drive social and economic progress through business events.
To that end our VP of Sales, Ross Sawai participated in PCMA’s Hospitality Helping Hands, an opportunity for participants to further commit to PCMA’s mission to drive social impact and transformation in the cities they meet.
According to Ross, this is a can’t miss part of PCMA Convening Leaders. It felt great to get outside with a team of event professionals and help make a difference.
This year, the location was Perkins Elementary School, where one out of every three students are homeless, two out of every three students are chronically absent, and the majority are not meeting grade-level standards and all of them have experienced some type of trauma (domestic violence, divorce, sexual abuse, eviction, sudden and chronic illness, family separation, drug addiction, deportation, incarceration, homicide).
Sawai and other volunteers worked alongside the student body to refresh, restore and revitalize the common areas of the school used daily including the playground, cafeteria, and school garden. From building “buddy benches” to creating additional games for recess to painting inspirational murals to weeding and replanting their teaching garden, these efforts aimed to create an environment that would benefit the students starting the very next day when they returned to school.
What are the benefits of attending Convening Leaders?
Thousands of business events professionals and community leaders from around the world come to Convening Leaders every year to explore, through leading-edge education, research, and networking, how business events generate economic and social legacies for businesses and communities.
How did Community Brands participate in PCMA?
In addition to attending the event, Community Brands sponsored the board member luncheon, gifting local See’s Candies to the board members, along with custom water bottles as a keepsake to mark their term as a board member at the event.
We also shared insights from our Community Brands Event Trends Research Study to help attendees plan for 2024, including a few key facts like:
- Fast Fact: 59% of early adopters will invest more in event tech vs. 48% overall.
- Continuing education courses and credits are an important component of attendee engagement.
- Investing in technology promotes event growth – which is a top priority for event planners.
What topics dominated discussions at PCMA?
The role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) dominated the content and conversations at PCMA, and with good reason.
Main Stage presenter and AI authority Nina Schick urged the events industry to be vigilant with respect to AI, while highlighting the importance of in-person events as its counterbalance, in a pre-Convening Leaders Convene interview:
In-person events hold significant value for authentic knowledge-sharing, especially as distinguishing between synthetic and real online content becomes harder. These events offer irreplaceable opportunities for genuine human interaction, networking, and trust-building, which are challenging to replicate digitally.
The dual nature of AI’s potential is both exciting and concerning. The prospect of transformative solutions in various fields is thrilling. However, the rapid evolution and potential misuse of AI, especially in shaping public opinion and creating false narratives, are worrying. As a parent and professional, the focus is on guiding AI’s growth responsibly for a safe future. Most of all, we have to remember that we have agency. AI is not an autonomous force: We control how it is developed.
Our team’s top PCMA takeaways
Scott Andryk, CIS, Account Executive
AI and its opportunity in the Events space continues to be the hot topic at these types of educational shows. Organizers shared ways of using AI to help with sourcing destinations, contracting with suppliers, and overall saving time in day-to-day activities. Commonly heard tidbits in several sessions included:
- AI will assist in greater event personalization and will allow for easier use of matchmaking and aligning people with common interests.
- Properly applied, AI can help minimize errors and risks in the planning/logistics area.
- Don’t be afraid of losing your job to AI. However, you might lose your job to someone who is using AI.
AI is transforming industries and processes at a much greater pace than was originally expected (even as recently as last year), and everyone in the Event space should be looking at ways to incorporate uses to enhance why they exist.
While it is difficult to pull AI into our day-to-day processes to increase our event planning efforts, Scott stated that some of our technology streamlines the planning process so much, that you save almost as much time as a copywriter would using AI. Using Attendee Interactive to automate speaker management and streamline abstract management is a game-changer.
This system is managing our call for proposals, continuing education, and evaluations. It has cut about 150 work hours out of my schedule.
Jeffrey W. A., Senior Program Coordinator, Education Management
Drew Tokosch, Account Executive, echoed that AI was a big topic of conversation, with two keynote speakers discussing its role in general. He and Ross, attended a session demonstrating how event organizers can integrate AI, which introduced the events industry related AI tool, Spark.
Drew, who was part of the original Core-Apps team said that the human factor is still important. In light of the fact that 60% of Gen Z members are likely to avoid an event if they don’t know anyone, underscoring how important it is to create experiences that underscore a sense of belonging. Of the 16 Ways to Increase Belonging at Events, our favorite is to integrate an event mobile app by Community Brands. Drew has found that to increase the feeling of belonging at your events for the Gen Z population — and all attendees — you can harness the power of an event mobile app, which empowers you to:
- Connect attendees digitally ahead of time
- Gather feedback
- Leverage collaborative technology
- Feature interactive maps to ease navigation
Jeff G., acknowledged that AI is still uncharted territory for most associations:
I talked to several association meeting planners that are currently not using AI in any way. And their associations currently have no guidelines or governance on the use of AI within their association or their industry/profession. We discussed that this is the 1st step. Defining what the association’s positioning is on the use of AI and how it should be guided or governed.
While the buzz was AI, there was also a repeated drumbeat of being in person and the need, desire, and importance of the human connection. Being in person, seeing people, and connecting was a driving element of the conference. And we are seeing that across event management with all associations fully embracing the in person conference.
Our final thoughts on the insights from PCMA Convening Leaders 2024
In person events are stronger than ever. The industry is not only expecting to produce more events with greater numbers of sponsors, attendees and speakers, but they are finding innovative ways to support their teams. One way to have success is using end-to-end event management solutions built with flexible technology that is designed to create meaningful and engaging experiences. With the Community Brands connected network of solutions, event planners and trade show organizers can bring any exhibition or conference vision to life and seamlessly plan one-of-a-kind events of every size. Discover how partnering with us empowers you to optimize event management and logistics, host safe and contactless events and connect with attendees anywhere. Request a demo today.