A bunch of striking Hollywood writers--and the directors who are consequently out of work--must have moved to Seattle for the Professional Convention Management Association Annual Meeting the week before last. Even an Oscar-winning director--make that directors—couldn’t have orchestrated a better meeting. It took some 650 volunteers, a team of Seattle hospitality executives, and an incredible PCMA staff to pull off one of the best industry meetings I’ve been to in a long time.
For the first time in its history, for example, Nordstrom closed its doors to the public and reopened them for a PCMA private party in which the whole of downtown seemed to come to a standstill as the 3,400 attendees took the short walk from the Seattle Convention and Trade Center’s opening reception to a dessert reception at the flagship department store.
It’s true what the business world says: Successful organizations start with dynamic and visionary leaders. Don Welch, president and CEO of the Seattle Convention & Visitors Bureau, an industry vet who gets hipper with age, set the stage at the opening general session with a high-energy welcome, video clips of the city’s iconic venues, and Seattle’s “oldest intern,” Jimmy Bright—an invented geeky character who infected us with good humor. (We were first introduced to him at the previous year’s convention in Toronto with a hysterical video featuring Jimmy and Don). Don led his community, right down to the security guards/greeters at the Center, by infusing spirit and hospitality. We all felt Don’s affection for the city, this industry, and his job, like one big, collective hug.
There was no shortage of celebrities either, including actor and local Tom Skerritt who welcomed us at the opening session, along with Washington’s rockin’ female governor, Chris Gregoire. Mark Walberg (the host of “Antiques Roadshow” and “Moment of Truth,” not the Mark Wahlberg of Boogie Nights fame) hosted us, for the second PCMA in a row, as a very warm and funny emcee throughout the three-day meeting.
And meeting pros, take note: Maybe there is a way to keep your attendees for the entire meeting. PCMA saved the best for last. At Wednesday’s lunch, Jason Alexander, best known as George Costanza from “Seinfeld,” did a truly hilarious one-hour stand-up routine as motivational speaker Donny Clay. He nailed the meetings industry with some hysterical, satirical sendups (like meeting planners need to relax already: Who cares if we’re having chicken again for lunch or we’re 50 tables short at dinner?)
Later that afternoon, Robert Kennedy, Jr. spoke at the closing general session with a sobering, but highly inspirational message about how politics and the environment go hand-in-hand. It resonated with the crowd, especially in a city that is known for being green and in an industry truly concerned about its environmental footprint.
And how can I forget John Mayer? MTR Western motorcoach company, the convention’s transportation provider, sponsored a private concert with John Mayer and Ben Folds on Monday night at the Experience Music Project for a group of very lucky meeting planners. (MTR offers a very cool and different tool with their transportation services, a ticketing service.)
No, we didn’t go for the weather, but I think every attendee really did feel like Seattle had been waiting 52 years to host us!