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PCMA’S big plans pay off with record-setting Convening Leaders attendance in Chicago

The Professional Convention Management Association brought a record-setting 4,128 meeting planners and suppliers together to make big plans for the future of face-to-face and hybrid events at Convening Leaders 2015.
“This year’s program was designed to challenge the most respected leaders in the industry to embrace the spirit of innovation and risk-taking,” Deborah Sexton, President and CEO, PCMA said. “Our audience showed that, without a doubt, they are ready to accept that challenge and elevate the next generation of meetings, conferences and events.”

With speakers from inside and outside of the meetings and conference landscape, the PCMA Education and Events Teams worked together to develop a program that allowed every attendee to create a personalized education roadmap.

“We aimed to give our attendees more than education credits,” Kelly Peacy, Senior Vice President, Education and Events, PCMA, said. “The roadmap served as a path from inspiring big-picture general session concepts to specific intimate courses with personal and practical takeaways. When our attendees return home, we want them to be able to take what they learned at Convening Leaders and immediately adapt it to their own organizations.”

While the education roadmap was founded on five primary tracks (Event Technology and Intelligence, Operational Strategy, Meeting and Experience Design, Globalization and the PCMA Business School), it also included plenty of potential pit stops that increased attendee ROI.

• The PCMA Learning Lounge, powered by Freeman – Freeman and PCMA collaborated together to expand the Learning Lounge with more opportunities for attendees to dig deeper into issues. With Q&A sessions featuring keynote speakers and thought leaders, hands-on activities and areas designed to facilitate discussions and networking, this year’s environment was more packed than ever before
• TechCentral, powered by the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau - As the event technology landscape continues to evolve, the Learning Lounge featured the ultimate destination for meeting planners looking to explore new tools and innovations. From an App Alley featuring platform tutorials with leading mobile app providers to a Tech Demo Zone to 30-minute TechBytes educational sessions, this was an up-close and hands-on opportunity for planners to add “tech-savvy” to their résumés.
• The PCMA Park - With picnic tables, park benches, lampposts and 35 trees, the middle of the West Building at McCormick Place felt more like Chicago’s downtown Millennium Park than a traditional convention center. The PCMA Education and Events Team partnered with Freeman to design the park as a community-building place where attendees could naturally network.
• PCMA’s Five Speakers to Watch Series - As meeting planners continue to search for speakers who can inspire their own audiences, this new addition to the program included five of the most notable (and affordable) new names on the speaking circuit.
• Food For Thought Luncheon - As meeting planners work to satisfy a growing list of dietary restrictions and preferences, PCMA used Tuesday’s meal time to help Convening Leaders participants understand how to easily add gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and nut-free items to their own menus.  

A Big Behind-The-Screens Meeting, Too
As leaders from around the meetings industry gathered in Chicago, meeting professionals around the world who could not make the trip to McCormick Place in-person tuned in for the PCMA Convening Leaders Hybrid Event. In its fifth year, the hybrid event continued its impressive track record with 1,000+ attendees from 33 countries.

“We made no little plans with our hybrid meeting,” Mary Reynolds Kane, senior director, experience marketing, PCMA, says. “This year, we streamed 13 sessions over three days for a full taste of what Convening Leaders offers.”

Reynolds Kane and the PCMA hybrid meeting team infused a virtual networking element to each day of the program, too, with an online happy hour at the end of each day that allowed virtual participants to stay logged on and continue their chat discussions.

A Big Community Impact
PCMA’s big plans did more than electrify the meetings industry. The organization’s volunteer efforts also left a lasting imprint on Chicago.

Now that the meetings industry is finished making “no little plans” in Chicago, the PCMA audience is making plans for celebrating innovation in Canada. Convening Leaders 2016 will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre January 10 - 13, 2016.

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