Planner’s Notebook

Monday-Morning Quarterbacking

Convening Leaders 2013 was a success. I think. But ask me again next year.

It’s the night of Wednesday, Jan. 16, and Convening Leaders 2013 has been over for about three hours. Our whole team is exhausted and elated — not just my Education & Meetings staff, but everyone throughout PCMA who was a part of the annual meeting.

Over the next few days and weeks, attendees will be filling out their formal evaluations, and also sending us emails or calling us up to let us know what they liked and didn’t like. They’re PCMA members, after all, and never shy about telling us what they think, and that’s one of the many things we love about them.

We’ll go over all of that feedback carefully, and combine it with our own observations to figure out how to make our meetings and events even better. But for now, here are some anecdotal impressions that I’m putting together.

Overall, Convening Leaders 2013 went very well. We received a lot of good feedback about the level of education we provided. And while there are going to be some sessions that don’t meet everyone’s expectations or miss the mark in some way, we spend a lot of time preparing our speakers, and I think that was reflected in how on point they were. For example, Yum! Brands CEO David Novak, our Closing General Session speaker, used a lot of industry references, which attendees seemed to appreciate, because it showed that he did his homework. And we did ours.

You can never ignore the basics. Convening Leaders is probably best known for getting blown up and rebuilt every year — new innovations, new programs, new experiences — but throughout all of that, we still have to practice solid, fundamental meeting management. The idea is to create a well-oiled machine of best practices that powers all of the cool new stuff. With a few exceptions, I think we did that this year.

The Celebrate PCMA Awards Luncheon was a home run. We divided the room into four zones, each with its own menu (Comfort Food; Small Plates, Big Tastes; Classic French; and Healthy Trends) and its own setup, and let our attendees pick where they wanted to sit. I’m pleased with how that worked out — it was executed right on the money.

The Show Reimagined Networking Luncheon needed more advance communication. For Tuesday’s lunch, we presented a variety of food stations interwoven with stages and sets offering short sessions about exhibition management. It was a very different format for us, and while we thought we let attendees know about it in advance, a lot of people were confused or unsure about the whole thing on site. And that’s not a good thing. We should have done more in the final program or via our mobile app to better explain the concept. But once attendees understood their engagement opportunities in the luncheon, they told us they loved the concept and the education offered.

As everything continues to sink in, I know I’ll find more constructive criticisms and more successes, and I know the whole process will help us create an amazing program for Convening Leaders 2014. So ask me about it again when I see you in Boston next Jan. 12-15.

Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP

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