Jason Alexander, also known as George Costanza from the “Seinfeld” TV show, had attendees at the Professional Convention Management Association's Annual Meeting rolling in the aisles when he let loose his alter ego, Donny Clay, motivational speaker. The funniest bits, audience members agreed, were the ones he customized for the meeting planning crowd — something he did a lot of, from mocking folks who thought putting live trees on a stage (which was the set for the general sessions) was a great idea, to listing the minutiae that fill the typical meeting planner's schedule

But it was not all fun and games at this year's conference, held at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle. While the record crowd of more than 3,300 meeting and hospitality professionals laughed at Alexander, they also learned from general session speakers Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore, authors of ]The Experience Economy and Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want; Microsoft's senior vice president of marketing Mich Mathews; a panel led by Peter Yesawich of YPartnership on the forces that are reshaping the meetings industry; and Robert Kennedy Jr. on protecting the environment for future generations.

In keeping with Kennedy's message, PCMA instituted several green initiatives at the meeting, including issuing reusable plastic water bottles, which could be filled at water stations throughout the convention center. The association's materials were printed on post-consumer recycled paper, and extra food was donated to a local food rescue program. Even the registration bags were made of organic and recycled material.

Other ways that PCMA shook things up was by providing registration in the round; and the I-Zone, where members could demo tech products. PCMA also experimented with room setups and formats throughout the meeting, said PCMA President and CEO Deborah Sexton at a press conference. In an interesting move, Pine and Gilmore did a walk-through of the convention, offering their input on what they would do to make it a more authentic experience. The results will be posted to PCMA's newly relaunched Web site, which is “a total rebuild, not just putting lipstick on a pig,” said Sexton, adding that the site will be tweaked to keep current with new developments in online community-building.

While PCMA membership is hitting all-time highs, Sexton stressed that “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, she said, was the record number of students — well over 200 — who attended the event.

Success “isn't about breaking records,” said Sexton. “It's about providing a good educational experience for our members.”

Meetingsnet.com

  • The board of directors of the Convention Industry Council has appointed Colin C. Rorrie Jr., PhD, CAE, interim president and CEO of the CIC, effective immediately. He fills the position left vacant by Mary Power last May.

  • The hotel market will cool in 2008 but remain a seller's market, according to PKF Hospitality Research. PKF is projecting a 4.5 percent gain in revenue per available room (RevPAR), the slowest pace of growth since 2003.

For more on the 2008 PCMA Annual Meeting, including session writeups, go to the industry association news section of face2face, the MeetingsNet blog.