Category Archives: Trade Shows

More from PCMA’s Convening Leaders

Attendees from 36 countries were able to choose from 138 experts, advocates, industry leaders and celebrities positioned to address the group. General session topics are thought to be somewhat predictable but not in the hands of PCMA programmers.

From marketing Guru, Seth Godin, instructing on how to blow up the status quo for memorable conferences to tennis legend Billie Jean King lobbing tennis balls into the audience as the finale to her interview, there were few moments when participants looked to their cell phones as a diversion!

Billie Jean ready to lob tennis balls to the audience

Wellness ruled with an early morning yoga class, “Namaste with PCMA” being a big hit.

Then, as advertised, education was key with an Innovate and Elevate Arena, Content Studios offering unique immersive experiences and Breakout Sessions covering topics ranging from Inclusion and DiversityLatest Trends in Design as well as Aromatherapy in Action.

A myriad of networking opportunities were available throughout the event as long as you were wearing comfortable shoes and had your phone fully charged, enabling you to set up rendez-vous points!

Session Key Take-Aways:

  • 1 face-to-face conversation equals 34 emails
  • Your body is your #1 fan – learn to listen to it
  • The “Meeting Professional” label has been upgraded to “Business Event Strategist”
  • Meet Face-to-Face – See Eye to Eye

Along with our own Jo Ann Hoffman and Sandra Reed of Meetings Alliance, I was pleased to encounter the following supplier partners in attendance:  Gerry Kingston of Delta Air Lines; Laura Saeger, Meet In Ireland; Kerrin MacPhie and Gavin Landry, Visit Britain and Kim Brussow, Visit Vail Valley.

There may have been more of our colleagues in the hall, but I was lucky to find these few among the 4,000 of our closest friends!

Hope to see them again (and you) at next year’s Convening Leaders in San Francisco!

PCMA 2019 – The Steel City

Your intrepid Blogger was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. but my recent trip to  “The Steel City” was not a sentimental journey but rather one to attend PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2019.

Held Jan. 6-9, this event retained its label as THE premier opportunity to “jump-start” the year professionally for the close to 4,000 attendees. The theme was “Disrupt + Deliver and this was the ideal branding for the “smart, creative program with a diverse array of perspectives” as described by CEO Sherrif Karamat.

Pittsburgh’s CVB team pulled out all the stops and showcased this uniquely situated city with its uber-friendly inhabitants as a dynamic meeting destination. The David L. Lawrence (Leed Certified) Convention Center played the leading role by providing flexible meeting space along with spectacular views of the rivers surrounding the downtown area.

ConventionPlanit Attends SPINCon

SPIN celebrated its 10th birthday at SPINCon 2018 hosted by the Don CeSar in beautiful St. Pete Beach, Florida, and ConventionPlanit’s Muzette Randall was in attendance to support our strategic partner.

For the 2nd year in a row the conference focused on Brain, Being, Body, & Business with an impressive array of speakers offering insight and education geared specifically to the senior planning community. The agenda was jammed pack with opportunities to participate in sessions and workshops that covered everything from pricing strategies to website design to recipes for life to the power of presence.

Celebrating SPINCon 2018 on the rooftop of Hotel Zamora (photo by Josh Power)

Quiet time at the end of each session was introduced this year to give attendees the opportunity to process the information received. But it wasn’t just about learning…it was about building and fostering relationships that uplift, inspire, support and encourage each other.  The Brain Snacks were amazing and the Dance Parties were stimulating.

Reading Buddies ruled – SPIN’s sponsored charity included books for YMCA READS. Pictured L-R Tracy Smith & Shawna Suckhow

This event is undoubtedly one of the most creative and engaging conferences held by any organization. To give an example: the general meeting room was a theater in the round and attendees shared sofas, high top tables and comfy chairs. This year’s theme was “Magical” and attendees were encouraged to dress in costumes, wear pajamas, outrageous slippers, etc…but most of all be comfortable. Authenticity was mandatory and “I am fine” was an unacceptable answer to “how are you?”. Attendees found the  “no judgment zone”  liberating and the overall atmosphere infectious. was in excellent company and shared sponsor honors with, to name just a few, Business Events Toronto, Memphis Tourism,  Alaska Destination Specialists,  DMC Network, Experience Grand Rapids, Cabarrus County CVB, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, Daytona Beach CVB, Great Wolf Lodge Groups & Meetings, The Beach of Fort Myers and Sanibel, Visit Anchorage & Hotel Zamora.  As is SPIN tradition, sponsors were made to feel part of the family and were bestowed with many hugs of affection.

What a pleasure to spend time with such a passionate group of people who truly believe in servicing their clients with the best possible meeting experience. Next year’s SPINCon location has not been announced yet, but you can bet I’ll be there.  If you’re a supplier and haven’t partnered with this network yet, then you need to put it on your to do list. If you’re a planner with 10+ years of direct planning experience and are not a member, then you need to check out You don’t know what you’re missing!

“Stand” Outs by Supplier Partners at IMEX America

The Visit England stand had some great children’s book giveaways as it got lost in the world of literature. Their booth was anchored by a whimsical map of England depicting where in the country well known English authors lived and worked. Also pictured were the titles of the books authored by these literary greats…from Dracula to Sherlock Holmes.

The Bloomington CVB introduced their new high-tech humanoid robot Pepper to promote the Under One Roof meeting experience. This program packages together unique luxury meeting space in partnership with the JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America, Radisson Blu Mall of America and the Mall of America itself. Three Pepper robots on the premises are designed to enhance the guest experience through AI. Pepper can give directions to stores and restaurants, answer questions about the Mall, and even pose for selfies. BTW, Pepper demonstrated some cool dance moves!

The Long Beach CVB stand had the great idea to position a human flower arrangement to attract planners to their versatile destination. This lovely lady stood for hours covered with flora which prevented her from seeing all the attention she was receiving from attendees! (And I thought walking around the floor was challenging!)

Final note: This was also a landmark week for our industry outside of the records being set by IMEX.  An announcement was made by the Events Industry Council that globally, business events generate over $1 TRILLION in direct spending, matching the consumer electronics sector in size and placing it among the world’s leading business markets. So, as Ray Bloom so succinctly summed up, we ended the IMEX event on the high note of a” tremendous week for business, for the industry and for the future of meetings and events.”

So mark your calendar and see you next year for IMEX America #9 – to be held earlier in the month of September instead of the traditional October date!

IMEX America 2018 Was a Success!

The eighth annual IMEX America held Oct. 16-18 in Las Vegas set a series of new records. This blog is a bit late as the team is still reeling from working an exhibition that gave a record 13,000 thousand participants the opportunity to do business face-to-face.

3,500 exhibitors representing 150 countries along with 6,000 attendees saw the show expand into a third hall at the Sands Expo. Your intrepid blogger lost at least a half inch in height after 3 days of walking the aisles dodging 3,300 hosted buyers on a mission to get to their supplier appointments on time. As 70% of these meetings had RFP’s attached, you can be sure that the energy on the exhibitors side of the booth was just as prevalent!

Participating buyers had the opportunity to:

  • Conduct up to a year’s worth of global business in only 2-3 days… without needing a passport
  • Learn from the extensive Education sessions and Inspiration Hub interaction
  • Enjoy both professional and personal networking

Interactive experiences along with the standard educational formats provided opportunities for the planners to combine activities such as:

  • Learning how to design your meetings for the quiet 50%
  • Enjoying  the thrills of the VR zip line
  • Sampling artisanal cheeses from Wisconsin and learning how to create the perfect pairing
  • Instruction on how to leave a positive legacy from your events on local communities
  • Participating in guided meditation in the Be Well Lounge

ConventionPlanit Invites you to be a Hosted Buyer at IMEX 2019 in Frankfurt + a Post-Trip to London

Do you book events outside the US?

IMEX, the world’s largest exhibition for the global meeting, incentive and exhibition industry, is bringing hosted buyers like you to its Frankfurt show May 21-23, 2019.  ConventionPlanit partners with Susan Sarfati and Liz Jackson who have been organizing IMEX hosted buyer groups for ten years.  IMEX will pay for your air fare and Frankfurt hotel plus provide airport shuttle service and daily shuttles to the exhibition


Do you book association meetings in Europe of 200+ attendees and London could be a prospect?  If so, you are also invited to join a hosted buyer post-IMEX trip May 23-26, 2019 organized by the London Convention Bureau

RSVP and more information: contact Liz Jackson or +1.703.964.6030

RFP’s ‘Valet’ at ASAE Annual

This year the ASAE Exposition trade show floor buzzed with extra energy both Sunday and Monday with association planners and exhibitors interacting face-to-face to build business relationships (Twitter definitely took a back seat)., already known as a class act,  had a very special booth upgrade this year to explain the popular (and free) RFP Valet service. RFP Valet helps meeting planners easily source their RFPs to the hotels and destinations of their choosing, and organizes the responses on a virtual chart.

Al Rickard, CAE

Our very own live Valet (Al Rickard, CAE, of Association Vision) was on hand to explain how it all works. Al was a “vision” himself in an elegant tuxedo, complete with the customary white towel on his arm. He may become a permanent fixture as David Markham had trouble keeping up with the demand for demos!

Jo Ann Hoffman, Regional Director of Sales, Maryland & Mara Hill Buckner, Regional Director of Sales, Chicago of

In attendance were also a few of the Account Managers. “Newbie” Jo Ann Hoffman, Regional Director of Sales, Maryland joined Mara Hill Buckner, Regional Director of Sales, Chicago in staffing the booth.

We also noticed supplier members Team San Jose, Tourism Memphis, Delta Air Lines and Visit Vail Valley busy educating planners on their destinations and services. AND, for the umpteenth year in a row, Visit Anchorage won another “Best in Show” Second place!

Look for the ASAE Annual to head over to Columbus next year…see you all there!!

ASAE Opening Reception features an Unusual Talent

On our industry calendar, “A” is for August and the ASAE Annual. No passport necessary this year as the event was held in the Windy City. So off went your intrepid blogger to report on the 2018 Conference & Exposition held Aug. 18-20 in Chicago.

ASAE’s opening nights are always epic, but the reception this year was a fabulous kick-off party at the Wintrust Arena.  Barbecue and country music shared the menu for a rousing good time as attendees networked with colleagues both inside the arena and outdoors (as the weather more than cooperated.) It truly was a “Chi-town Chow Down” enjoyed by all.

New! A sign of the times was the upgraded security to enter the hall as well as the advance warning to make sure ladies handbags were regulated to a specific “clutch purse” size. This proved to be a bit of a challenge as clutch purses were designed well before the arrival of the oversized smart phones!

McCormick Place hosted the annual meeting and exposition and the opening general session set the tone for this year’s theme, “Get Focused.”

John Graham reiterated ASAE’s focus on standing firmly against legislation resulting in any type of discrimination.” We will fight for the right of all people to come to our meetings, participate in our programs and serve our organizations.” He was enthusiastically applauded by the 3,554 Executives, 2,120 Exhibitors and 418 staff, press and guests who attended THIS meeting!

IMEX America 2018 – Expanded, Exciting & Experiential

Experiential innovations, learnings, industry trends and new exhibitors are among the hundreds of reasons to attend IMEX America, taking place October 16 – 18 at the Sands® Expo and Convention Center at The Venetian®| The Palazzo® in Las Vegas.

Memorable Masterclass

A new partnership with C2 International, the ground-breaking leader in business conferences, will bring a huge dose of creativity and excitement to the show. Following an enthusiastic response to their Learning Labs at IMEX in Frankfurt, C2 will be presenting a suite of different Learning Labs at IMEX America, as well as a Thursday morning, open-to-all, Masterclass on the show floor.

More exhibitors and opportunities to do global business

Driving business success remains at the heart of IMEX and with over 3,300 destinations, venues and suppliers from 130-plus countries under one roof, this year’s show is no exception.

IMEX America has moved into a larger hall to accommodate new and expanded exhibitors, such as Meet New York, Malta Tourism Authority, Nobu Hotels and Visit Dallas, Pacifica Hotels – all at the show for the first time. Many exhibitors are increasing the size of their booths including Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, DMI Hotels, Croatian National Tourist Board, Mexico, Royal Caribbean International and Bermuda Tourism Authority who have all doubled their presence.

Powerful and personalized – education for all

In line with tradition, the show kicks off on October 15, Smart Monday – a full day of complimentary, cutting-edge professional development, which is powered by MPI.

Additionally, an Association Leadership Forum, created by ASAE exclusively for association leaders and an Executive Meeting Forum dedicated to senior corporate executives with a focus on SMM program management, procurement leadership or meetings management are also on offer on Smart Monday.

Once again IMEX America 2018 will live out its mission to ‘educate, innovate and help all its clients to make powerful connections with the right people’ by presenting easy-access professional development each day of the show. The Inspiration Hub, situated on the show floor, will be the central point of focus for hundreds of sessions on hot topics including security, sustainability, creativity, innovation, technology, experiential events and legacy – IMEX’s Talking Point for this year.

Recognizing personal impact and legacy

Various aspects of legacy will be covered throughout the program – political, personal, environmental, CSR and social impact/knowledge legacy – all designed to help planners produce more engaging, topical events with longer-lasting positive outcomes.

Following great feedback, a ‘Legacy Wall’ launched at IMEX in Frankfurt will also premiere at IMEX America, showcasing heart-warming and inspiring stories and case studies from exhibitors, partners and IMEX staff.

Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, explains: “With an expanded show floor, new exhibitors and numerous networking events, the opportunities to do business at IMEX America are second to none this year.

“As always, we’re committed to putting on a great show – one that ignites fresh thinking, explores new trends and encourages people to connect and do business easily. In a fast-changing world, we believe that coming together in the same place to see, hear and talk commerce – and to understand the wider forces shaping our industry – is fundamental to business success.”

IMEX America takes place October 16 – 18 at the Sands® Expo and Convention Center at The Venetian®| The Palazzo® in Las Vegas, preceded by Smart Monday, powered by MPI, on October 15.

Registration is free. recommends attending IMEX America as a hosted buyer to learn the latest in the international meetings world

IMEX America is approaching fast and we know you will benefit from being a hosted buyer in Las Vegas. colleagues, Susan Sarfati and Liz Jackson, are offering participation in their hosted buyer group.  Here’s what you need to know now: 

  1. IMEX will cover the cost of air fare to Las Vegas, hotel and airport shuttles to bring you to this global meeting, incentive, convention, exhibition trade show and education program.  Expand your meeting industry knowledge and contacts plus attend education programs and earn certification points. 
  2. Dates are October 15-17, 2018. Mark your calendar! 
  3. Requirement is booking meetings outside the US or book a minimum of 1,000 attendees annually to US destinations. They can register up to two hosted buyers per organization.  Bring a colleague or pass this invitation on to qualified staff members. 
  4. Want to invite a qualifying friend, colleague or client?  It will be done! 
  5. will be exhibiting at IMEX America and we look forward to meeting you there. 

RSVP now to Liz Jackson 

In addition to a great IMEX learning experience, enjoying being with new friends and colleagues,  our group will be dinner guests of Caesars Palace’s new restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen.  It’s the world’s first Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen restaurant drawing inspiration from the global hit reality television show starring world-renowned Chef Gordon Ramsay and we will feel like we are on his studio set.  Many thanks to our long-time Caesars Entertainment sponsor, Shelley Williams, for this wonderful invitation.