Behind the Scenes

Convene Turns 30

Throughout 2016, we’ll be celebrating Convene’s 30th anniversary. Join us!

As I was writing this column, a query from British fashion designer Tom Cridland landed in my inbox: Would Convene be interested in writing about his “30-Year Sweatshirt”?

It’s a statement piece in the literal sense of the word, meant to buck the wear-it-now-and-toss-it-next-season, fast-fashion trend.

I’m not sure why Cridland contacted a meetings industry magazine to spread the word about his sustainable clothing — or why he capped the shirt’s lifetime guarantee at three decades. My guess is that the cutoff point has less to do with cotton-fiber science than perception. Thirty years must seem like a lifetime to a 25-year-old designer.

It’s certainly a long time to wear a sweatshirt, but happily, it’s not the length of a magazine’s useful lifespan. At least, not this one’s. As we celebrate Convene’s 30th anniversary in 2016, we also look forward to its bright future.

When I cracked open the bound volume containing the inaugural, 32-page issue of Convene, published in the spring of 1986, it became clear what a watershed year that was for PCMA. Barbara C. Nichols, then-president of the PCMA Board of Directors, wrote that new programs and services were being created at a “dizzying pace.” In addition to 1986 being the year Convene launched, it was also when the PCMA Education Foundation was established and when PCMA published the first edition of the textbook Professional Meeting Management. And it was the year PCMA began a serious study of the pros and cons of opening membership up to non-medical-meeting professionals.

In the beginning, Convene was a volunteer-led effort, produced by an editorial board of nine medical-association professionals and an advisory board of suppliers. Gregory Deininger, currently senior vice president of sales and marketing for Interstate Hotels & Resorts, was on that first advisory board. “At the time, I was the director of sales at the Chicago Marriott Downtown,” he told me. “I had been a member of PCMA for only a few years, and this was my first national committee assignment. To be asked to join the committee was a tremendous honor to me, as I was just 28 years old.

“As advisory members, we were asked to help think through topical content, ideas that would be interesting to both planners and suppliers,” Greg said. “Pete Shure [Convene’s first editor] hosted us on conference calls and the agenda would come to us via fax.… Recalling this, I am feeling really old! We would brainstorm topics, and on occasion we were asked to write and/or review content.

“Thinking back on this experience, it really was my springboard to national service with PCMA and for what has become a lifetime of volunteerism. I eventually became a member of the PCMA Board of Directors, which was a pinnacle point in service for me.”

Please join us this year as we look back at Convene’s own pinnacle points over the past three decades, beginning with an article about PCMA’s 1986 annual meeting. And stay with us as we continue our mission of service to the meetings industry.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.