Behind the Scenes

No Little Takeaways

PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2015 — themed ‘Make No Little Plans’ — is a wrap. Here are five things our team learned.

For our second-tier cities story in this issue, we asked 21 DMO leaders to share the “one special thing” that makes their city stand out. We decided that that was also a good way to capture our experience as a team (see selfie above) at PCMA Convening Leaders 2015 last month — distilling one idea that most resonated with each of us.

Senior Editor Barbara Palmer was struck by how Helen Marriage’s presentation “demonstrated the way in which innovative breakthroughs are powered by old-fashioned qualities like persistence,” she said. “Marriage, co-director of the British creative company Artichoke Trust, went to meetings in London for two-and-half years trying to convince city officials to shut down traffic for a free, four-day theater piece to be performed in London’s landmark public spaces. Marriage not only kept hearing ‘no’ from every side, but that she was not exactly ‘normal.’ Finally, she got to yes — and the 2006 event was not only hugely popular, but generated £28 million for London’s economy.”

Given her role, it’s not surprising that Web Editor Kate Mulcrone’s one big takeaway had to do with social media. When someone in the audience asked marketing expert and Thought Leader speaker Scott Stratten to share the worst digital marketing advice he’d heard over the last year, he said it was scheduling social-media posts in advance. Kate said: “Social media is about real-time experience. Stratten’s advice rings especially true when it comes to live events. You wouldn’t want a pre-scheduled speaker bio to hit Twitter at the same time that someone in the audience tweets, ‘This speaker is so boring.’”

Fortunately, Executive Editor Christopher Durso was far from bored by Convening Leaders’ three General Session speakers. What impressed him the most, he said, was that the“emotional through line that connected them. From PopTech’s Andrew Zolli on the importance of building personal and professional resilience, to long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad’s amazing story of interior strength, to Uncharitable author Dan Pallotta making the case for giving nonprofits the freedom to save the world — each spoke to and from the heart as much as the head, and each touched the audience with a message about staying focused on what’s important.”

Design is an important focus for Associate Editor (and former graphic designer) Corin Hirsch, so she was particularly interested in how Emily Oberman described her process for designing the opening title sequences for “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) during her session. For a recent sequence, Oberman presented a mood board — “the original form of the Pinterest board: a hand-collaged or digital collection of curated images that together create a ‘mood’ or theme — for the SNL staff to feel out their reactions and guide the project,” Corin said. “While mood boards aren’t new to design, it’s easy to forget how useful they can be in kick-starting a visual project. As Oberman pointed out: ‘Timeless works every time.’”

My One Thing

From the breadth and depth of the education and speakers to its creative room sets and session formats, Convening Leaders is an innovation lab. The one idea that I’m wrestling with from this year’s event is: How do you take such a rich conference experience and put it to work for you back home? Will Thalheimer, Ph.D., presented a session on how to help people turn the insights they gain at a conference into on-the-job achievements. He said, in a nutshell, that you need to follow up with them after the meeting concludes — which is something I plan to do with Thalheimer for a future story on that exact topic. Stay tuned.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.