Planner’s Notebook

Leveraging Attendee Feedback for Better Networking

Lately our team has been tossing around two words: strategically risky. It applies to a lot of what we do when it comes to planning Convening Leaders.

As we close in on the final details of another Convening Leaders, we’re at the point where we’re fielding many questions from members and attendees about why we are doing certain things within our program, or what led us to select a certain speaker, or how we chose a specific venue. In other words, what was PCMA’s thought process and strategy in planning?

There are a number of ways we look at how we innovate, but it really boils down to being strategically risky. Change for the sake of change doesn’t always make sense, even for an event like Convening Leaders. Instead, our team often asks a series of questions at the outset of each new planning cycle: What new expectations do people have? Do they reflect a large enough segment of our attendance to be economically feasible? If we develop a brand-new experience or methodology and it doesn’t work as we had anticipated, are we able to step back, analyze it, and discuss with our attendees what went wrong?

As I’ve said many times in this column, we don’t always know if the new program elements we attempt will work. If they don’t, we’ll learn from the experience. Here are just a few of the new risks we’ll be taking at Convening Leaders 2015:

› We’ve heard from attendees that there’s too much of a good thing, so instead of offering a multitude of breakout sessions, we’re creating a new educational content strategy based on five color-coded topic tracks. This will allow attendees to be the architects of their own experience — starting with big-picture concepts in the morning and drilling down to applicable takeaways throughout the rest of the day.

› We’re attempting to see how networking and business connections can be enhanced if you create an inviting space to sit, talk, and have a snack. Enter our new, indoor PCMA Park.

› We’re going to hold education in different environments. Instead of a standard breakout room, for example, attendees may find themselves in the PCMA Learning Lounge for their session, or conducting a hands-on experiment with any number of subject-matter experts.

› We’ll see how we can create a luncheon space for 3,000-plus attendees that brings them up to speed on the latest F&B trends while serving them a delicious meal in a fun networking environment.

Our No. 1 goal for Convening Leaders is to create a living laboratory of learning and connections. If you plan to join us, I urge you to come with an open mind and a willingness to learn and share.

Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP

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