Planner’s Notebook

Now We Know

We’re not kidding when we say Convening Leaders is a learning lab. Here are a few things we learned from this year’s show.

PCMA Convening Leaders 2015 is over. As I’m sure many of you can appreciate, it’s a strange feeling to see something you’ve worked on all year zoom past in a flash. Right now, barely a week after our show wrapped in Chicago, there’s still a sense of energy pervading the PCMA office. Just as I hope our attendees learned a great deal during Convening Leaders, our team did too, and we’ll take all of those lessons into the next planning phase — for PCMA Convening Leaders 2016 in Vancouver. Here are some of our big takeaways:

We still don’t have the sound in our open-space learning concept down. The PCMA Learning Lounge and TechCentral served as a hub of open-space learning, where many sessions took place outside the typical classroom environment. There, we experimented with audio systems and wall structures to help block in sound, and tested other tactics beforehand in an attempt to create a unique and energetic learning environment. And while I think we were successful in creating energy, we also know that is was often difficult to hear our presenters. We will definitely re-evaluate this moving forward, because one thing we did observe is that attendees enjoy this type of energetic environment, they just need to hear with less distraction. I have a strong belief that open-space learning is something we’ll continue to see at other face-to-face events, moving away from the same old learning environments of the past. We just need to figure out the space and the sound. Trust us, we heard you loud and clear.

A warm welcome is everything. Monday morning’s hometown welcome that Choose Chicago, McCormick Place, and their partners gave our attendees truly made me proud. From Chicago’s labor force welcoming our group as they arrived at McCormick Place, to the bag pipers at breakfast and the Soul Children of Chicago choir gracing the doors to our Opening General Session — Chicago embraced our entire Convening Leaders community in one big hug and said, “We’re glad you’re here.”

Educational content is still king. We heard many positives about our educational content this year, and that makes us happy. We spent many hours working with our members to understand what’s important to know today and into the near future, and researching thought leaders from outside our industry to bring their perspective into this seasoned community of event professionals. Attendees look to Convening Leaders for top education to help them become better professionals, and we can’t let them down.

We have many more takeaways than I have room for in this column, but know that we’re taking all of your feedback into our event strategy for Convening Leaders 2016. If you attended in person or via our virtual event, thank you for spending time with us — and I hope to see you next year in Vancouver.

Thank You

So many people put everything they have into making Convening Leaders a reality. I’d like to recognize my Education team of Dawn McEvoy, CMP, CAE, Carrie Johnson, Sioban Amezcua, and Jamie Mednansky, CMP, as well as my Events team of Jody Egel, CAE, CMP, Alison Milgram, CMP, Dyan Westropp, CMP, and Patrick Crosson, CMP. Extra-special thanks to our hard-working team at Freeman who help bring all of our visions to life. And of course, thank you to the entire Chicago hotel and hospitality community, Choose Chicago, McCormick Place, and the Chicago Department of Aviation for making Convening Leaders 2015 a success.

Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP

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