Behind the Scenes

Happy Anniversary to Us!

We’ve been celebrating Convene’s 30th anniversary all year. This month, we go big.

How do you distill three decades of articles focused on elevating the meetings profession down to 16 pages? By spending months poring over bound, archived issues,and using your intellect and sense of humor to choose highlights that illuminate the industry’s evolution. No mean feat, but Barbara Palmer, Convene’s senior editor and director of digital content, has done just that.

I’ve spent nearly half of Convene’s lifetime writing in this column about how the industry continues to change and grow. Our anniversary issue seemed a good time to have the rest of our editorial team share their perspectives.

Barbara has been with Convene for eight years, but working on this cover story provided her with a 30-year industry overview. She “was struck by how persistently people tended to focus on the latest technological tools — remember faxes and CD-ROMs? — while only a few thought deeply about how technology would fundamentally change who could connect with who. It reminded me of a Stewart Brand quote that PCMA keynote speaker Andrew Zolli repeated at Convening Leaders 2015: ‘The fast-moving trends get the most attention. The slow-moving trends have most of the power.’”

Executive Editor Christopher Durso’s time at Convene predates Barbara’s tenure by several months, but he’s worked for associations for more than 20 years. “Each one has organized meetings and conferences,” he said. “Like many association employees, that’s given me the opportunity to do a little bit of everything — delivering presentations, working registration, running the bookstore, serving as a human directional, filling in for the voice of God, and, for PCMA, overseeing the show daily. Having participated in meetings from nearly every angle for the last two decades, what strikes me is how little has changed, in a good way. Beneath the latest interactive technology and the newest collaborative session format, you’ll find attendees who have gone out of their way to be there, and most of them pretty happy about it.”

Associate Editor Corin Hirsch has been covering the meetings industry at Convene for two years, but even in that short time, she has “noticed that room sets — and especially seating — have rapidly evolved into more informal arrangements that are much more engaging than auditorium-style seating.”

Digital Editor Kate Mulcrone, who has also been on staff for two years, has been reporting on the industry since 2010. “The biggest change I’ve seen is the phasing out of printed conference materials in favor of event apps,” she said. “Since apps save money (and trees), make it easy to push out last-minute program changes to attendees, and give organizers instant attendee feedback, it’s not hard to see how they swept the industry so quickly.”

We hope this month’s retrospective gets you thinking about the ways, large and small, that the meetings industry continues to change — and grow in importance.

Best in Class
Speaking of change, our fifth annual Best in Show issue  honors the people — rather than the things and places — that make face-to-face events successful. We haven’t compiled the usual who’s who of leaders in the meetings industry — we think they have other opportunities to get their well-deserved recognition. Instead, we asked meeting professionals to nominate the people who work behind the scenes of their events, going above and beyond to get the job done without ever seeing the spotlight.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.