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PCMA 2018 Continued

The theme of this year’s conference was “Amplifying Engagement” and outgoing PCMA President and CEO, Deborah Sexton made sure that all participants were positioned to learn how to “electrify their experiences, elevate their conference’s brand and truly engage with their audience.” Interspersed throughout the Center’s standard meeting rooms were a Media Studio Stage housing the Video Capture Lounge, a Future of FACE2FACE area featuring a TECHBAR, (RE)ALITY ALLEY and The Mix – a 65-foot-by-18-foot video wall where delegates could tune into a session, get live breaking news or access prepared content. Add to this already heady combination of engagement opportunities the Braindates knowledge transfer opportunities as well as the Networking Luncheons and you have a potpourri of audio and visual stimulation that will no doubt become the standard for future conferences!

I was pleased to encounter the following CP.com supplier partners in attendance:  Angeline van den Broecke from the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre; Gerry Kingston of Delta Air Lines; Marie McKowan, Meet In Ireland; Andrea Schmidt, Visit Anchorage and Sandra Reed, Meetings Alliance. Also seen were CP.com Advisory Council members Leslie Zeck and David Williams. There may have been more of our colleagues in the hall, but I was lucky to find these few among the 4,500 of our closest friends! Hope to see them again (and you) at next year’s Convening Leaders in Pittsburgh!

PCMA 2018

Greetings from your CP.com intrepid blogger reporting on the recent PCMA Convening Leaders Conference held in Nashville, TN Jan. 7-10.

Known throughout the industry as THE premier opportunity to “jump-start” the year professionally, the 2018 version did not disappoint. Music City welcomed approximately 4,500 delegates with a strategically planned program that combined efficiency with southern hospitality.

Some of my favorite features were conference registration at baggage claim, complimentary souvenirs of hometown delicacies such as Goo Goo clusters (taste like they sound!) and Belle Meade Bourbon, bus transfers to the various hotels from the airport, hand lotion and mouth wash available in the Music City Center ladies rooms and frequent seating therein to break up the miles between meeting areas.

Just to give you an idea of the importance of this last attribute, the high-performance convention center is located on a 16-acre site! And, the grand ballroom for the general sessions was cavernous enough to provide for the world’s largest “air guitar” outlined in red lighting and anchored to the ceiling.

PCMA Convening Leaders – Helping Planners Unite People

Please enjoy the following post from our Latin America Sales Rep, Sandra Reed:

As I concluded the PCMA Convening Leaders in Austin, Texas in January, I realized how important our industry is for local communities. Events unite people of different countries, languages and cultures and meeting planners connect the hotels, convention centers, airlines, taxis, buses, restaurateurs, bars and many other suppliers…Planners unite people!

Meetings industry participants at the Convening Leaders Conference were welcomed by an icon from Austin (Matthew McConaughey), ate brussel sprouts for lunch, and attended seminars presented by professors of the University of Texas in Austin. We learned of new trends in the industry and shared ideas with colleagues or potential clients while snacking on chocolate covered bacon!  A quaint hospitality suite offered local brewed beers, while we mingled with colleagues from other states and countries. This was not only enjoyable but educational, as I brought back new ideas.

Local, regional, global …it is all happening at the same time. It is not only one destination promoting itself but it is the entire meetings industry from many parts of the world coming together.

Meeting planners or meeting organizers are business strategists, as they not only promote meetings, but entire communities.  Planners must sell their business planning talent as a strategist, uniting communities by selling opportunities and marketing strategies that will increase everyone’s experiences and knowledge.

Thank you Austin for hosting the meetings industry and giving us a piece of Texas to take back home.  I am sure many of us left with new ideas on how to better serve our communities.

Mergers, Meetings and Avoiding Mayhem

brand mergersWith all of the recent hotel mergers, PCMA decided to tackle the topic at a recent conference with a panel of suppliers and meeting planners.
ConventionPlanit was there to get the scoop!
The main concern is that of relationships “going away” as companies consolidate – though the point was made that unless they are merged, some companies would disappear, taking those relationships with them anyway.

Hoteliers mentioned that it is critical that a like meeting of the minds exists when merger candidates are under consideration. The most important core value is “put people first otherwise mechanics will fail.” Visions should be set clearly and belief systems should be in line.

Change occurs along with the need to adapt. Business is still relational, so change should be understood and not feared even though business rules will be re-written to make room for something different. This would include the fact that those basic terms i.e. cancellation policies/deposits/commissions etc. will be under review due to fewer players.

Specifically in regard to the Marriott/Starwood merger, 60% of U.S. lodging is franchised. Therefore, the individual GMs will still set pricing as large chains have never had this responsibility and that will not change moving forward.
This fragmented approach (unlike the Airlines) takes into consideration market conditions as well as the needs of each owner.

Major Brands will need to satisfy all parties at once…owners/managers/clients. How do they hear the voice of the customer? Having a similar culture helps relationships stay consistent.
It’s important to maintain vulnerability by keeping ego out of it. Provide incremental value or Don’t Do It. Use Advisory Boards and provide open communication.

Other take-a ways:

Don’t under estimate the time it takes to complete a merger. There is a goal on the horizon but as it is human driven, it takes years to do well.

PLANNERS need to be open-minded, not anticipating problems. Express any concerns in a civilized manner as fundamentals need to stay strong…provide constant education to end users to manage expectations.

BRANDS must communicate to the customer openly, frequently and consistently from a marketing perspective. Avoid a vacuum or people will fill it with their own negativity.

BOTH SIDES should manage emotions, show empathy and look at the good changes taking place (more affordable technology and cost savings based on volume purchasing).
What other concerns do you have about mergers? Any other tips to help navigate the changing market? Comment below!

Hot Topics at Convening Leaders

The “hot topic” at the conference was the recently announced Marriott-Starwood Merger and its effect on our industry.

Mel Robbins and Marriott's Arne Sorenson opening session speakers at PCMA in Vancouver

Mel Robbins and Marriott’s Arne Sorenson opening session speakers at PCMA in Vancouver

Beginning with the Opening General Session entitled “Mergers, Disruptions and Provocations, Oh My” (unofficially sub-titled “What’s Going to Happen to my Frequent Stay Points?”) and migrating to an overflow of the overflow room holding the break-out session “Mergers and Their Effect on the Meetings Industry,” attendees were brought into the loop on possible outcomes as to what will change and how the two organizations will complement one another.

Spoiler-alert! Arne Sorenson, Marriott CEO, is committed to an organization that is not just bigger but better by creating a sense of community right down to each and every property. But it still could be a “bumpy ride” for hoteliers and planners/consumers alike!

PCMA Kicks Off the New Year

Greetings from your CP.com intrepid blogger reporting on the 2016 PCMA Convening Leaders Conference held in Vancouver, BC Jan.10-13. The city of Vancouver welcomed over 4,000 delegates with a dramatic skyline of steel, glass and snow-capped mountains.

Unrestricted harbor views

Unrestricted harbor views

The Convention Center itself provided unrestricted views of the harbor through floor to ceiling windows surrounding all 3 levels of the venue. More importantly, attendees could stop anywhere in the facility to check mobile devices courtesy of building-wide Wi-Fi.

160111_003This provided an ideal environment for “Cultivating Creative Moments”… the theme of this year’s event. As usual, this industry showcase gathered the latest innovations in event technology, meeting design and business event strategy to present to the participants.

Magic at the 2015 PCMA Education Foundation Dinner

Your travelling Blogger, Maureen Pickell, came out of hibernation to attend the 2015 PCMA Education Foundation Dinner celebrating Professional Achievement as the guest of CP.com supplier partner, Delta Air Lines.

The event is always held the evening before Springtime and this year took place at the new Marriott Marquis Hotel in D.C. Usually this evening (celebrating three amazing leaders) is fairly predictable with regard to format, but this year we were surprised by a bit of Disney magic.

fairy godmotherIt appears that Anne Hamilton, V.P., Resort Sales & Services for Disney Destinations (the 2015 Supplier Honoree), has a Fairy Godmother who appeared on her behalf. This apparition appeared midway through the testimonials for Anne, blue spangled ball gown swirling, hair piled high under a tiara and wand arm waving like she intended to turn Gary Schirmacher, Chair for the Foundation and Master of Ceremonies, into Cinderella’s coachman!

All in all, it was a pleasant surprise that not only quieted the room but held everyone’s attention! For those of you in the know, this is a difficult task when the audience is a large ballroom filled with networking attendees! All it took was a bit of “Bibbety, Bobbity, Boo”!!

The Culture Map: How Cultural Complexities Will Impact Business in the Future

Among the most interesting educational sessions at this year’s PCMA Convening Leaders was one included in the Globalization tract. In the past, education geared towards organizing a global event was centered on instructing planners how to know when to kiss, bow or shake hands in order to ensure a successful transaction.

Now as today’s business world becomes ever-more global and virtual, professionals are expected to work harmoniously together with counterparts from a broad array of starkly different backgrounds and cultures…without disastrous results!

Erin Meyer, author of The Culture Map and specialist in the field of Cross-Cultural Management, broke down how different cultures influence the way to do business. Living and working in Africa, Europe, and the United States prompted her study of the communication patterns and business systems of different parts of the world.

She devised The Culture Map to help business executives break through these “invisible boundaries” by learning how to navigate cultural minefields. It is made up of eight scales representing the management behaviors where cultural gaps are most common. By comparing the position of one nationality relative to another on each scale, the user can decode how culture influences day-to-day collaboration.

For example, dissimilar cultures qualify feedback differently. Managers in various parts of the world are conditioned to give feedback in drastically diverse ways. The Chinese manager learns never to criticize a colleague openly or in front of others, while the Dutch manager learns always to be honest and to give the message straight. Americans are trained to wrap positive messages around negative ones, while the French are trained to criticize passionately and provide positive feedback sparingly.

If you are finding this a bit overwhelming, ConventionPlanit.com is positioned to help planners who are looking to refine their existing approach to doing business globally. Our international supplier partners include Destination Management companies who can help you with the challenges incurred by executing a meeting outside the U.S.

Click Here to view one such organization with “boots on the ground” serving five of seven continents through a portfolio of international DMCs.

PCMA Wrap-Up

As Director of Media Relations for ConventionPlanit.com, your busy Blogger was invited on a walking tour of McCormick Place West for a look at how PCMA and their partners addressed some of the opportunities and challenges producing the Convening Leaders Conference.

We visited the “Behind the Scenes” bleachers where attendees were able to watch as producers called out camera changes and speakers were shuttled to and from the green room and strolled through the first-ever PCMA Park, a salute to Chicago’s inspirational landscapes.

The Learning Lounge was the place to find TechCentral, the Globalization Hub and a wellness area among other educational content…i.e. diverse types of seating arrangements.

global hub

PCMA’s Global Hub

With so much to cover at this conference, I can only include brief mention of other initiatives; Hospitality Helping Hands, 20 in Their Twenties, Party with a Purpose, Thought Leaders, Citywide Auction, Decision to Attend Study and Uber Partners.

Stay tuned for all this and more at Convening Leaders 2016. See you in Vancouver!

Make No Little Plans at PCMA’s Convening Leaders

This year’s Convening Leader’s theme was “Make No Little Plans” and you can tell that 18 months ago, the committee organizing this event took this advice to heart.

make no little plans

From the informative and exciting General Sessions to the various Education tracts including Globalization, Operational Strategy, Event Technology & Intelligence and Meeting & Experience Design, there was a wealth of knowledge to be mined. As if all this didn’t provide enough stimulation, the Learning Lounge made its second appearance with a dizzying array of sessions, group discussions and hands on activities designed to bring the learning to life.

As usual, the General Sessions were stimulating and relevant. Monday’s speaker was futurist Andrew Zolli who can predict the future, but only because he’s paid attention to the trends that are taking us there. My favorite take-aways were:

  • The biggest technology-related risk we face is new distractions: “Within your phone, there are now thousands of places to be.”
  • “It’s the fast-moving trends that get the most attention, but it’s the slow-moving trends that have the most power,” he said. “These are the ones that we have to figure out.” i.e. There is more concern about terrorism when global warming is what we should be worried about!

However, we can recover and thrive amid disruption around the world by creating cultures of trust, so when disruptive periods occur, everyone can work together. Comforting thought!

Tuesday’s GS featured champion swimmer, Diana Nyad. She literally “dove in” to her topic of how we should never give up on our dreams by citing her own history of perseverance in her quest to complete the 110 mile swim from Cuba to Florida. More than just an athlete, she proved to be a riveting speaker, combining dramatic storytelling with a natural sense of humor and a charismatic stage presence.

Diana Nyad, presenting at Tuesday's General Session

Diana Nyad, presenting at Tuesday’s General Session