The Professional Convention Management Association’s Convening Leaders conference is underway in Austin. The first topic on its press conference agenda was the surprise appearance of the city’s most famous resident, actor Matthew McConaughey, during Monday’s opening session, a bigger jolt for the room than any free coffee could provide. His opening remarks about his hometown proved to be particularly appropriate for announcements about PCMA’s goals for the coming year. McConaughey, in describing Austin, said, “We are homogenous in our diversity; we know the difference between unity and uniformity.”

An appropriate theme as PCMA announced the formation of two new Regional Advisory Boards to both leverage expertise from, and embrace, meeting professionals in diverse areas, beginning with the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) and APAC (Asia Pacific) regions. The appointment of Luca Favetta as the first EMEA regional business director to support global expansion was also announced. The new advisory boards will help the organization produce appropriate educational products and services for the global events industry.

Outgoing Chair William Reed, FASAE, CMP, senior director of meetings and community engagement at the American Society of Hematology, emphasized that PCMA is still focused on expanding membership, but explained that traditional memberships are changing because of the structure of work and differing generational approaches. Reed said that PCMA is embracing a subscription model, as well as membership, and forming alliances with other organizations to reach out to professionals in the global community. Reed said although PCMA membership is now higher than ever (6,800 members),  “We need to recognize that 50 percent of our attendance now comes from outside the U.S. We need to tap into resources that are already in these regions and leverage that expertise.”

Goals for 2017
The organization’s online education entity, the Virtual Edge Institute, was rebranded as the Digital Experience Institute in November, and Reed noted the success of its education efforts saying, “We have over 200 people designated with a DES [Digital Event Strategist] certification.” He went on to say, “Five years ago people thought face-to-face events were in trouble because of digital events, but we believe one does not cannibalize the other.” The Digital Experience Institute will be able to track and provide hard data on users who engage with PCMA in a digital format, go on to use PCMA products and services, and ultimately attend face-to-face events.

Tina Wehmeir, CMP, CAE, CEO at the AMC Institute, also shared some highlights from the 2016 Impact Report from the PCMA Education Foundation, which she chairs. One marker of the foundation’s success: in 2016, it awarded 73 scholarships, up from 59 in 2015. Another achievement: the Foundation raised almost $700,000 to support educational efforts. Wehmeir joked, “you’re never too old to learn something,” an attitude she can make use of learning to play the custom guitar the City of Austin presented to her during the opening event.

PCMA’s incoming Chair Mary Pat Heftman, executive vice president, convention & strategic alliances, National Restaurant Association, iterated three goals for the upcoming year: to create a new strategic plan; use education to inspire and connect the business events community globally, through alliances and business event strategies; and to continue to support the foundation.

CSR Resource
More good news from PCMA: the Giving Good portal at www.givinggood.com, is now live and currently has 36 projects for meeting planners to peruse. The portal is an online resource for event planners to find a blueprint for a community impact project at their meeting destination. The portal was created by PCMA in conjunction with the American Society of Association Executives, Meeting Professionals International, International Association of Exhibitions and Events and Destination Marketing Association International. Deborah Sexton, FASAE, president and CEO at PCMA, describes the portal as a “win-win.” GivingGood can save time and resources for busy planners who want to give back to the host community, members of the host community benefit from the projects, and professionals at that destination can track not just the dollars left by the visiting event but they can use the portal for data on the impact of the CSR projects in their town.