Throwing It All Out the Window? Not quite — but Convening Leaders 2012 was marked by continued innovation and risk-taking. W
hen your annual meeting features a plenary speaker who advises your audi-
ence to take everything they know about the way they conduct their business and throw it out the window, it’s clear that playing it safe is not your meeting’s prevailing strategy. That’s exactly what TED founder Rich-
ard Saul Wurman did at PCMA’s Convening Leaders last month in San Diego: Encourage meeting professionals to completely redesign their events — and in a not-so-subtle way. And no, this isn’t an example of a speaker throw- ing the host organization for a loop at the last minute. We knew from the get-go that Wurman would challenge our attendees, because when Convene Executive Editor Christopher Durso interviewed him for our October issue (http:// bit.ly/Convene-Wurman), he told Chris that he found most meetings to be terrible. That’s why we asked him speak. In fact, all of our keynote speakers were handpicked for their ability to challenge the status quo, to bring unique perspectives to the table and attendees to the forefront of burning issues. Each year, we make it our business to design
a Convening Leaders environment in which participants will learn and connect in surprising and unusual ways. We take risks. We innovate. This year was no different. We completely upended our traditional program, allowing at- tendees to customize a schedule that was best for them. Breakout sessions were different lengths, and general sessions were held at different times. The Virtual Edge Summit was integrated into the program, making it easy for attendees to get to sessions on virtual and hybrid events. We also enhanced the Learning Lounge with more opportunities to catch bite-sized sessions and extended hours. At any time other than
8 pcma convene February 2012
during general sessions or luncheons, attendees could weave through the Lounge to sit in on 15-minute presentations, participate in informal group discussions, try their hand at new tech- nology tools, and meet up with their peers. And we changed the formula for our general sessions and luncheons by moving the bulk of association business to a brand-new Town Hall Meeting, which also allowed our volunteer leaders to interact with participants. We also expanded our virtual presence with
a full-fledged hybrid meeting that included an online moderator, an active chat room, and expanded educational offerings. More than 600 people took part in the hybrid meeting, extend- ing our reach around the world.
PCMA is relatively new to the virtual events arena, but our leadership feels strongly that we must take risks in this area on your behalf. When meeting professionals participate in our virtual events, not only do they directly benefit from new insights, ideas, and contacts that are shared, they get to sit in the attendee seat. They see first-hand what their members or stakehold- ers would experience with the virtual events they might produce, and get a better sense of how they can complement their face-to-face meetings. I’m pleased to report that our own virtual events are paying off for our face-to-face meet- ings — 112 people registered for Convening Leaders 2012 as a result of their participation in a PCMA virtual event. Our overall attendance in San Diego came close to record numbers. Did everything at Convening Leaders work perfectly? Of course not. That’s not realistic. Nonetheless, you can count on us to continue to push the envelope in the coming year. n
VOLUNTEERISM: PCMA wouldn’t be the strong organiza- tion it is without our volunteer mem- bers, nor would the Convening Leaders program be nearly as successful without the hard work of our Annual Meeting Program Commit- tee. We’re fortunate to benefit from the expertise of our volunteers. If you work with volun- teers at your own organization, you’ll want to read our CMP Series cover story (p. 46) and this month’s People & Processes column (p. 40) for advice on how to draw on their talents while making the time they contribute to your organization valu- able for them.