When he's not refereeing Midget-A Championship ice hockey games, Professional Convention Management Association President and CEO David DuBois, CMP, CAE, these days is traveling the triangle of his home in Dallas, PCMA headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., and Chicago--and likely will for at least the next several months as he gets ready to move PCMA to its new base in Chicago's McCormick Place.
It's a tall order for the former chief operating officer of Dallas-based Meeting Professionals International, who in April was chosen from about a dozen candidates to replace longtime PCMA President and CEO Roy B. Evans Jr. And the 44-year-old DuBois re-enters the organization he left five years ago (he was senior vice president working for Evans from 1991 to 1995) at a time of big change for PCMA and for the industry.
"Yes, I have big shoes to fill," DuBois says, "but I have big feet. He [Evans] did a splendid job--he brought PCMA from 500 members to 5,000."
Evans, who was feted at a dinner in Washington, D.C., on May 31, was scheduled to depart at the end of June, but with DuBois on board, he started his retirement earlier than planned. He visited the office occasionally, DuBois says, to help with the transition and to offer some advice. But members may notice a slightly different leadership style: DuBois says his approach is "very participatory and team-driven, which is healthy given the state of flux we're in right now."
DuBois has focused his priorities, at least for his first year, on the here and now. "I'm living with today," he says, "and trying to keep a staff in place and motivate them, and to service our members over the next several months as we get ready to move to Chicago." Of the 40 employees in Birmingham, about half have chosen to stay, and DuBois continues encouraging them to follow PCMA to Chicago. Attractive incentives, he says, are keeping at least some people in Birmingham until the relocation this fall.
Priorities number two and three? "A smooth and cost-effective transition to Chicago and then onward to plans for the Miami 2001 convention," DuBois says.
Mending Fences From PCMA to MPI and back again, DuBois is in a good position to understand the perception of competition between the two organizations. He makes it clear that his return to PCMA is strictly a career move. "I was number two at MPI and I was number two at PCMA when I first left," he explains. "It was my career goal to be number one, and I felt a strong desire to come back because I grew up in PCMA. It's been my industry family for over 20 years." And if families have their feuds, then DuBois is determined to be the peacemaker. "MPI and PCMA will definitely do things together in the future," he says. "That will happen and our relationship will grow."
A fond relationship with his former boss, MPI CEO Edward L. Griffin Jr., CAE, will be the foundation of better relations. "Ed was a mentor to me and I had his full support when I went for this job," DuBois says. "This opportunity only happens once, so I had to go for it, and the worst thing was if I didn't get it, I had a great job to go back to."
Net Threat The most pressing issue facing PCMA and the industry is how associations can continue to give value to their members as information and education increasingly become available free of charge on the Internet.
"The Net is our threat," DuBois says. "But members of associations cannot replicate the experience they receive at chapter meetings and conventions. Dot-coms may augment them, but we executives have got to figure out ways to give value to membership so that they'll sign the dues check every year."
It becomes a balancing act, however, as DuBois points out that many dot-com companies that are viewed as competitors to associations and the meetings industry are also members of PCMA. "We can't disrespect what they're doing," he says, "and with all the millions of dollars being invested, they're not foolish, they see something, but the jury is still out."
This is one reason PCMA's role in the technology revolution will remain one of objective spectator rather than participant. "We'll always review and meet with technology firms that make their presence known to the industry," DuBois says. "We'll be a resource for our members who want to contact these companies, but we won't be an advocate for any particular one."
Dot-com alliances are almost daily occurrences,and some of the larger meetings industry organizations are striking high-profile pacts with technology firms, such as Dallas-based International Association for Exhibition Management's partnership with b-there.com, a Westport, Conn.-based Internet travel, registration, and event management company. As DuBois sees it, such an agreement with the likes of Plansoft, EventSource, or Starcite is not in the cards for PCMA.
"We'll likely not become formally involved in any of these companies," he says, "because an alliance implies an endorsement, and we just wouldn't do that. Our goal is to help tech firms as members of PCMA, help them with their sales and marketing efforts."
It's not to say that DuBois totally dismisses technology's usefulness to the meetings industry. If anything, the new wave will ratchet up its degree of credibility and professionalism and "play a big role in the evolution of best practices," says DuBois in a nod to the Convention Industry Council's Accepted Practices for Excellence Exchange initiative.
"Technology is going to allow planners and suppliers to be more efficient in their tactical responsibilities," he says, "to devote more time to educational content, to programming, and adult education techniques. We're going to see meeting planners spending less time worrying about logistics, coffee breaks, rooming lists, and spending more time with upper management."