Planner’s Notebook

Boston Strong

We visited our Convening Leaders 2014 host city just two weeks after the marathon bombings - and left inspired, empowered, and recharged.

I really enjoy writing this column. Not only do I get to share the behind-the-scenes planning for PCMA’s Convening Leaders program — and receive terrific ideas and feedback from you — but it also gives me the opportunity to take time, stop, and think. And taking the time to stop and think is exactly what our Convening Leaders team did on a recent site visit to Boston, the host city for our 2014 annual meeting.

We were there just two weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings, making our visit poignant and leaving us all that much more determined to bring a world-class event to this wonderful city.

One of my goals this year has been to shake up our internal planning processes. From the way our staff team is structured (break down department silos and cross-pollinate ideas!) to how we conduct our site visits, we’re erasing the ways we typically have approached Convening Leaders planning — to infuse new thought from different perspectives.

For this particular visit, we tapped into the collective brainpower of the key people who make Convening Leaders happen. Members from PCMA’s meetings and events, education, marketing, Education Foundation, and partnership teams — along with our president and CEO, Deborah Sexton — joined creative, AV, and expo profes sionals from Freeman, our strategic partner, and key experts from the Mas sachusetts Convention Center Author ity. All told, about 30 smart, energetic people came together for a full day to help us craft the key innovation ele ments of Convening Leaders 2014.

Our goals for the day: (1) ensure everyone saw the meeting spaces we’re working with, (2) allow time to discuss our key challenges within those spaces, and (3) brainstorm potential solutions to those challenges. We came up with four items to center our creative energy around — with everyone grouped into four different rotating brainstorming teams, so perspectives changed with each discussion.

We had an optimal brainstorming environment, thanks to our friends at Freeman and the Hynes Convention Center, who set a room with five different work areas — each one with comfortable furniture, white boards, flip charts, and, of course, food and beverage. We broke out into different groups for a period of time, then got back together again to pitch ideas and riff off each other’s thoughts.

After five hours of brainstorming, the result was page after page of solutions, new ideas, creations, and perspectives. Some will work and some will never see the light of day, but that’s okay. Like I said, the whole idea was to take time, stop, and think. The energy we created and the concepts we discussed recharged us, and everyone left feeling as if they were now true owners of Convening Leaders’ success.

Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP

Kelly Peacy, CAE, is CAE, CMP, is senior vice president of education and events at PCMA.