Normally I use this column as a way to provide a behind-the-scenes view into the planning of PCMA’s Convening Leaders. I’ve tried to provide insight into everything that is keeping me up at night, to the numerous challenges we’ve had, to the lessons we’ve learned while trying to plan a meeting for meeting planners.
Our annual meeting is on Jan. 13–16. As we approach our busiest and most stressful time, I thought I’d give you an insider’s view as to what it’s like in our offices in the weeks leading up to Convening Leaders. Here are a few things that might surprise you:
The PCMA Meetings and Events department does not plan the meeting. Our Convening Leaders planning team is actually made up of approximately 15 representatives from several different PCMA departments – internal stakeholders who each have a specific responsibility or sets of duties for which they’re accountable. We have monthly meetings all year long, and every two weeks starting in October.
We have been structured this way for several years now, and what I love about this process is the various perspectives we gain from the different generational viewpoints and experience of our team members – who also feel a sense of pride and ownership in their specific Convening Leaders projects..
We hold a Convening Leaders orientation for new staff – otherwise known as “Kelly’s Scared Straight Seminar.” It’s not as bad as it sounds. For the last six years, I’ve held a separate meeting for all new staff who are headed to Convening Leaders. What this does is enable our rookie team members, many of whom are new to the meetings industry, to ask any questions they want about expectations on-site. We focus on the nitty-gritty details of the event days, and I share some of the lessons I’ve learned about on-site physical survival (e.g., change your shoes several times a day, stay hydrated, carry a protein bar with you), and even tips on how to keep track of on-site expenses easily.
These things might seem like old hat to veterans, but for a new employee, having this information in advance can ease anxiety and allow for greater focus on-site. We’ve also found that having this separate meeting for new staff allows my team to focus on key updates during the official all-staff pre-con.
The PCMA staff does celebrate the holiday season. Because Convening Leaders typically begins within the first two weeks of January, many PCMA members might assume that our staff doesn’t get to enjoy the holiday season. While it’s true that many long days and late nights are required before any meeting, PCMA’s staff works very hard to set deadlines early in the year and keep on top of them to reduce stress and long hours around the holidays. In fact, our driving incentive is to be ahead of our planning process so we can enjoy time with family and friends – without the looming threat of unmet deadlines.
So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to say thank you to a terrific PCMA staff team, for all you do to bring Convening Leaders to life for our attendees.