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January 12, 2015

What's New at PCMA Convening Leaders 2015

PCMA’s 59th annual Convening Leaders conference has kicked off in Chicago, with 4,000 industry professionals gathering to listen to thought leaders and innovators whose insights can shape the future of the MICE industry. International Meetings Review is on location to get the latest updates on the latest trends in meetings and events. 

Convening Leaders, Kelly Peacy (PCMA’s senior vice president, education and events), said as the first session got underway, is an incubator for new ideas in industry. “We would rather take risks and fail miserably than have you do that...We have failed, learned, talked and shared--everyone wins that way.” 

This year’s theme is “Make No Little Plans,” taken from a quote by Daniel Burnham, an American architect and urban designer and Director of Works for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Appropriately, PCMA—the show that takes risks and dares to fail so that its attendees don’t have to—has eschewed the a trade show or exhibit hall model. Taking a cue from Burnham, this event focuses primarily on education and networking, and the West Building at McCormick Place has been adapted into a sort of city, complete with a central park that will be used for networking and socializing. 

“The biggest change is definitely the way our educational content is structured,” Peacy told IMR. The education program is “a departure from what we’ve done in the past,” she continued, noting that this year’s program will have four tracks honing in on “what keeps you up at night”: Event Technology and Intelligence, Meeting and Experience Design, Operational Strategy and Globalization. “We’ve made a great attempt to organize the content in a way that people can easily find what they’re looking for,” she said. The program will also include eight Thought Leadership sessions and six Business School sessions with university professors and business school representatives discussing finance, strategies and marketing. (These sessions are limited to 200 people.) 
Convening Leaders, Peacy continued, has grown significantly over the last few years, and attendee feedback has helped guide the ever-changing structure of the conference. When attendees complained that there were too many sessions and not enough time to explore them all, the event team launched a hybrid program to record certain programs and make them available online. Previously, the videos were available for sale, but this year they will be available to all attendees for 60 days following the conference. (After 60 days, the videos can be purchased for repeated use.) 

This year, the Learning Lounge and TechCentral are integrated together, and Peacy believes this year’s biggest “risk” will be how the two spaces are utilized as part of the overall program. TechCentral is a holdover from last year, and Peacy said that the attendee response to the technology education in 2014 indicated a clear demand for more. 

“This is the first year that we’ve actually reduced the number of breakout sessions,” she continued, “and we increased a number of content in the learning lounge. There’s much more of a balance there, and we’ll see how people like to learn in that environment. It’s non-traditional.” 

Then there’s that park, which Peacy said came out of a brainstorming session about how Daniel Burnham’s urban planning initiatives could apply to conferences and conventions. “He felt that [parks] created a sense of community, a place for play, a place to meet people, and that’s what we’re trying to do at PCMA Convening Leaders: Give people an opportunity to connect with each other and find each other—It’s a symbolic representation of what Daniel Burnham’s plans were. And, quite frankly, it’s winter outside right now. We can bring a little greenery inside the convention center!”  

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work." --Daniel Burnham

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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox





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