To the Point

Charting a New Course for Meetings

Picture this: Your team is under the gun to meet your quarterly sales goals or finish a huge project. The pressure is mounting, higher-ups are asking questions, and competitors are looming.

What do you do? Close your offices and schedule a day off for everyone? 

That’s probably the last idea that would come to you. But in effect, that’s the option outdoor retailer REI chose when it announced in late October that it would close all 143 of its stores on Black Friday. Coming at a time when most retailers were announcing at what ungodly hour they would open that day — or even on Thanksgiving — their announcement made waves. 

A store closing its doors on the busiest shopping day of the year? Missing out on all those potential sales — and paying their employees to take a day off? On the surface, it might sound counterintuitive. Or maybe you’d call it plain crazy. 

But peel back the layers, and I’d say it’s one seriously strategic move from one bold organization. In making the announcement, REI didn’t just say they wouldn’t be open that day — the message was that they were giving their employees the chance to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, and encouraging others to join them. That reinforced REI’s brand identity as a different kind of company (literally a co-op, not a publicly traded entity) and underscored that they take their core values very seriously.

Those messages are spot-on in a day and age when consumers are craving authenticity and meaning in their lives and seeking the same from the companies they buy from. Not to mention, the amount of publicity REI received when the news first broke is huge. It will be interesting to see how the decision plays out in the long term, but I give them credit for trying to forge a new way.

That’s essentially what we at PCMA try to do each year at our Convening Leaders annual meeting. We could stick with the tried and true, but instead, each year, we experiment with new learning models, new room sets, and new formats. We try to forge new paths for our meeting, so you can learn from them and chart your own new course.

At Convening Leaders 2016 in Vancouver next month, you’ll be able to experience content in a variety of new ways. We’ll experiment with new acoustical treatments in our open-space Learning Lounge and try out different room setups. We’ll also pay special attention to helping you stay energized and well while on site, and will tap into Vancouver’s natural beauty to inspire you and help you stay in the moment. And of course, there will be plenty of education and new ideas from thought leaders from both inside and outside the meetings industry. Read more about what’s in store in PCMA Today and Convening Leaders Preview.

There’s still time to join us in Vancouver Jan. 10–13, or you can also participate virtually. Be sure to visit us at to learn more.

Deborah Sexton

Deborah Sexton is president and CEO of PCMA.