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PCMA Convening Leaders sets attendance record
PCMA’s 2014 Convening Leaders, held at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center and carrying a theme of “Revolution” that was certainly appropriate for the host city, set an attendance record by attracting 4,072 attendees.
“This event will have the highest attendance of any event in [PCMA’s] history,” Sexton predicted during a press conference during the conference. “But it’s not about how many people attend. We want to be the best—it’s not always about being the biggest.”
On that note, Sexton stressed the learning laboratory aspect of the event, where meeting planners experienced different meeting content and design ideas in practice, to determine if the concepts would bear fruit for their own events.
One such idea was a “box-lunch” concept on the Tuesday of the program, which allowed attendees to grab a lunch on the go and consume it outside of a central location, allowing for more networking and flexibility.
“Much of what we try to do here at Convening Leaders is innovate,” Sexton said. “We like to take risks.”
Among the new concepts were Learning Lounge 2.0, a partnership with Freeman that aimed to provide education in “bite-sized pieces” in one of the convention center’s ballrooms; Tech Central, which offered demonstrations of meetings technology and even “genius bar” service; a Business School, were planners could increase their meetings and events business acumen in areas such as negotiation and strategic planning; and the Big Idea Zone, a partnership with the Dallas CVB that distilled the information from various sessions into a “big picture” for attendees.
Another concept that seemed revolutionary a few years ago, but which has increasingly become mainstream, is the hybrid meeting, which PCMA has advocated for since its early stages.
The virtual component of this year’s Convening Leaders resulted in more than 20 hours of online programming.
“PCMA has been experimenting with how to put on a digital event for the last five years,” Sexton said. “This is a new space, we’ve sort of learned from the ground up, and our online events are driving people to our [face-to-face] events.”
Whether virtual or face-to-face, one couldn’t be blamed for being concerned for a few nail-biting weeks before the event about the massive Polar Vortex approaching the East and Midwest.
“We have a meeting in January and weather can happen anywhere in the world,” Sexton said.
“Of course we were watching it very closely, but [Boston] is very experienced with snow removal, and the fact is that it’s 50 degrees and blue skies,” she continued, with just a touch of relief in her tone.
James Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Authority, said that one of the primary reasons Convening Leaders was held at the Hynes Convention Center is because there are 3,000 hotel rooms attached to the facility, as opposed to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, which ended up hosting the opening night event.