While the weather was a bit overcast yesterday, the mood at the Professional Convention Management Association’s Annual Meeting, going on now at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, is upbeat. This is especially true for PCMA staff, who are welcoming approximately 3,400 attendees to this year’s event—the most ever, said PCMA President and CEO Deborah Sexton at a press conference yesterday. But, she was quick to add, success “isn’t about breaking records. It’s about providing a good educational experience for our members.”
Opening general session speakers Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, authors of The Experience Economy and, more recently, Authenticity, spoke about how planners can make their conferences more authentic in five different ways. One of those ways is to show a connection to the natural world. PCMA took this to heart. This year’s green initiatives include issuing reusable plastic water bottles, which can be filled at water stations throughout the convention center. Many of the center’s trash cans have been replaced with recycling bins, the association’s printed materials are on post-consumer recycled paper, and extra food is being donated to a local food rescue program. Even the registration bags are made of organic jute and recycled nylon.
Other ways that PCMA is looking to shake things up a bit is by providing registration in the round; and the I-Zone, where members can demo products from Microsoft, PolyVision, Freeman, VisionaryFX, and MeetingMetrics. PCMA also will be experimenting with room setups and formats throughout the meeting, said Sexton, and providing experiential programming. In an interesting move, Pine and Gilmore will be doing a walkthrough of the convention with 25 attendees, offering their input on what they would do to make it a more authentic experience for attendees.
PCMA also launched a new Web site that is “a total rebuild, not just putting lipstick on a pig,” said Sexton. She added that the site will continually be tweaked to keep current with new developments in online community-building.
While PCMA membership is hitting all-time highs, Sexton stressed that “we’re not all about the numbers. Our aspiration is not to be the biggest organization in the industry, but to have the highest level of leadership in the industry, and also the highest level of student involvement.” One demonstration of success in this regard, she said, was the record number of students—237 as of Sunday—who attended the event.