Research, industry advocacy, and education are the cornerstones of the Professional Convention Management Association’s new strategic plan, which looks to bolster the organization’s standing as a thought leader in the industry. "We will be more proactive on the issues that are affecting us," said Gregg Talley, 2005 PCMA chairman. "If the conversation is not taking place, we’re going to create the conversation."

The unveiling of the new strategic plan and a first-ever partnership with Meeting Professionals International, resulting in a new diversity toolkit for members of both organizations, were highlights of the 49th annual convention, held January 9 to 12 at the Hawaii Convention Center, Honolulu.

The 2005 strategic plan, which PCMA reviews every few years to chart its course, takes a more outward focus than the 2000 effort, explained Talley. In 2000, PCMA concentrated on internal issues, such as organization and structure. "Then 9/11 happened and we had to go into drop-back and survival mode," he said. Now, with debt paid off on its McCormick Place headquarters in Chicago, a $251,000 budget surplus, and its financial house in order, PCMA is well positioned to leverage its resources and "champion thought leadership."

Toward that end, the association plans to heighten its commitment to education and find innovative ways to deliver it, conduct research and publish white papers, and take positions (and promulgate them) on important industry issues. Over the next few months, PCMA will release the results of a survey of chief executive officers’ attitudes on meetings, as well as an industry trends survey.

In February, PCMA will begin a series of forums that explore hot-button issues. The first, "Visas, Customs, and Customer Service: Making Life Easier for International Meeting Attendees and Exhibitors," will be held in Chicago on February 23. Also, PCMA will be developing a set of core competencies for meeting professionals, and it will strive for "operational excellence" by making sure the organization is run efficiently and effectively.

In other convention news, PCMA CEO David Kushner and MPI CEO Colin Rorrie Jr. introduced the first joint partnership for the two groups—a multiculturalism toolkit that will be distributed to all PCMA and MPI chapter leaders. The toolkit, available in a binder and CD-ROM, will provide leaders with the resources and guidance needed to raise awareness of multicultural issues, strengthen relationships in the African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American markets, and promote involvement in PCMA and MPI, according to Kushner and Rorrie. Michael Gamble, chair of PCMA’s Diversity Task Force, and Linda Simpson, chair of MPI’s Multicultural Initiative, head up the joint effort.

"It’s a natural first step," Kushner said, as both organizations already had a commitment to multiculturalism. PCMA will likely embark on more partnerships with MPI and the American Society of Association Executives in the future, he added.

PCMA’s Hawaii convention drew about 2,700 registrants, which topped attendance at the ’04 annual meeting in Indianapolis and the ’03 annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. Nearly half of the members attending were meeting planners, according to Kushner. Rex Johnson, executive director of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, estimated that the meeting would have an economic impact of $8.9 million in Hawaii.

Four groups took advantage of Hawaiian tourism officials’ "Bodacious Offer," introduced at the 2004 meeting in Indianapolis. Free rent of the Hawaii Convention Center was offered to PCMA members who booked meetings in Hawaii between 2005 and 2010.

The Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, American Medical Association, National Association of College Auxiliary Services, and Sweet Adelines International signed convention center contracts that will result in an estimated $48.9 million in visitor spending, according HTA estimates. Center officials said they are in negotiations with 11 other groups, which would bring another $160 million in visitor spending to Hawaii.