The Professional Convention Management Association is adding new initiatives and expanding its programs for its annual meeting in Toronto, January 7-10—the association’s first outside the U.S. Deborah Sexton, president and chief executive officer at PCMA, says, “We want people to think outside just the logistical aspect of our industry.”

The popular Executive Edge program is back with the support of one of the world’s top business schools, accompanied by two new educational initiatives—the Master Series and the Innovation Zone. Also, a former speaker of U.S. House of Representatives and a former Canadian prime minister are among the general session speakers.

The concept behind the Masters Series is to bring in “the best of the best” to talk about high-level concepts as they relate to meetings and events, says Sexton.

On the agenda is last year’s Executive Edge keynote speaker Roch Parayre, Ph.D., senior fellow at the Mack School of Technological Innovation at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, who will address strategic innovation. Other Masters Series speakers include Dr. J.P. Pawliw-Fry, co-founder of the Institute of Health and Human Potential, who will discuss “emotional intelligence,” and Jack Phillips, Ph.D., founder of the ROI Institute, who will talk about his strategy of measuring the return on investment (ROI) of meetings.

A new product developed by Phillips will be among several showcased in PCMA’s new program, the Innovation Zone. The software tool provides planners with a way to conduct pre- and post event surveys, which are essential to determining event ROI.

“There are some new products out there that would be advantageous for our membership to see, feel, and decide whether or not they could use these innovations,” says Sexton, who stresses that this is not a trade show or a selling opportunity. If it’s well-received, a bigger Innovation Zone will return in 2008, says Sexton.

At Executive Edge, produced in conjunction with Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, attendees will learn how to use the power of design thinking to unlock breakthrough ideas. This invitation-only program for senior level planners and suppliers is nearly sold out.

Introduced last year, Meeting Xperiments, which incorporated new ideas into the meeting, has been eliminated. Experiential Learning, another new initiative in 2006, is expanding to offer 10 experiential learning sessions, up from six last year; all are nearly sold out.

There will also be a plenary session on the five “macro trends” in the industry, led by Peter Yesawich, president and CEO of Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown and Russell, Steven Porter, CEO of Intercontinental Hotels, Michelle McKenzie, president and CEO of the Canadian Tourism commission, and Roger Dow, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association of America.

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Jean Chretien, former Canadian prime minister, are part of a panel that will discuss the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and its impact on meetings. This closing general session panel will be moderated by NBC News White House Correspondent David Gregory. Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith and motivational speaker Mike Lipkin are the general session speakers on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

Registration numbers for the annual meeting are ahead of where they were at this time for last year’s meeting, which attracted 3,000 attendees. With new visa restrictions in place, attendees must have a passport to go to Canada. The organization has been “proactive” in informing attendees that they need a passport, says Sexton, and she is hopeful that the new regulations won’t lead to travel glitches.