Planner’s Notebook

Thinking Small

We anticipate a big turnout at Convening Leaders, but it should feel like an intimate gathering.

What I’ve heard over the last several years is that as our annual meeting continues to grow in size, it’s become more difficult to find the people you most want to connect with on site.

I’ll be the first to admit that a reception or a luncheon for 3,000-plus people is not the most intimate get-together and can feel almost overwhelming.  So, how do we find ways to make Convening Leaders “feel” smaller, and more personal? Outside of education, networking is the most important aspect of the attendee experience at Convening Leaders, and it’s something we want to facilitate really well.

One important element to making a large meeting feel more intimate is customization.  At Convening Leaders 2013, one of our goals is to try to provide as many opportunities as possible for our participants to personalize their experience.  And I will tell you that this is proving more complicated than I originally thought.

Continuing from last year’s meeting in San Diego, we once again will offer education sessions of various lengths, based on the content being delivered.  Mixed with short, 15-minute sessions in the PCMA Learning Lounge, attendees will be able to create their own customized educational experience.  But where might other opportunities lie?

Here are just some of the things our team is working on to meet our objective of helping attendees create meaningful and more personalized experiences in Orlando:

  • Details of networking receptions clearly communicated in advance – including meet-up locations and other opportunities to connect so you can better plan your evenings.
  • Luncheons within a luncheon – we’re experimenting with space and content to create smaller, different experiences within the overall luncheon programs.
  • Gamification – one of the key objectives for the new on-site mobile game we are creating for Convening Leaders is for participants to more fully engage in meeting elements.  We’re hoping that a fun and easy-to-use game, along with some healthy competition, will entice attendees into certain meeting activities.
  • PCMA Learning Lounge sessions – they’re small, intimate, and no longer than 30 minutes.  Attendees will typically sit with no more than 30 people, so it’s a terrific opportunity to make connections.
  • “Diehards and Novices” – this is the name of our revamped Convening Leaders new-attendee connection program.  We’re matching up a veteran, experienced attendee with a first-timer who wants to be shown the ropes.  It’s easy, fun, and a great way for new professionals to connect with each other.  If you’re interested in participating, you can sign up right on the 2013 registration form.  Speaking of which, registration is now open at We’re looking forward to seeing you in Orlando in January.

Making It Your Own

Bill Reed, Experient senior vice president, will present a breakout session on how to get the most out of your Convening Leaders 2013 experience on site in Orlando.  And while I won’t be able to attend his session – duty calls, you know – we are in the fortunate position to obtain his thoughts in advance, to give us a few tips for our program.

Helping meeting attendees find who and what they need at large meetings isn’t a challenge that’s unique to PCMA.  Read how conference organizers redesigned their program to deliver a deeper level of networking at Sage Summit in our Innovative Meetings column. Bonus: Sage Summit’s daring initiative will be presented as a breakout session at Convening Leaders 2013.

Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP

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