Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

April 24 2014

Membership Perspectives - Comparing Viewpoints of a New and a Long-Time Member

Jill Formeister

How do expectations compare for new versus long-time GMC PCMA members? To find out, we contacted representative members and asked them to share their thoughts about membership benefits and the future of the chapter and the industry. 

Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, with Saal Meeting Consulting, is an independent meeting planner based in Springfield, Ill. She joined PCMA in January 2014.

Francine Pepitone, CMM, MAS, has been involved with PCMA since 1989. She began her sales career with Marriott and Hyatt Hotels before launching her promotional products company, Francine Marketing. After 15 years, InnerWorkings, Inc. purchased the company. Francine serves as Vice President, Business Development for the new ownership, selling print and promotional products management. Her focus continues to be the convention, association, and hotel industry. 

What influenced you to join PCMA?

Dana: An enthusiastic recommendation from Denise Suttle, Assistant Director of Convention Services, Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau, plus PCMA’s emphasis on the experienced planner and association planning.


How has PCMA influenced your career? 

Francine: My ongoing participation and connection to PCMA has helped guide many of my career and business decisions throughout the years. Many of my most significant long-time business partnerships have come through involvement with PCMA.

Recognizing the value and importance of volunteering and actively participating both nationally and locally, I have served as past chair of the AMPC Marketing Committee as well as the Awards Committee for PCMA. I am proud to have served as founding board member for our GMC PCMA chapter and currently serve on the GMC Awards Committee.

How do you think PCMA will help enhance your career?

Dana: Through exposure to other veteran meeting professionals and suppliers who have a variety of experiences to share.

Do you plan to be actively involved in the chapter, and how?

Dana: I am already a member of the GMC Membership Committee. As a long-time association staffer, I know that committee involvement is the best way to get to know an association and its members.

How has the Greater Midwest Chapter changed throughout the years?

Francine: GMC consistently has attracted the more experienced planners and suppliers since its formation 20+ years ago. Other constants are the strength, enthusiasm and commitment of the chapter leadership.

Originality and distinguishing our chapter offerings are critical for continued growth and relevance. Take a fresh look at all offerings across the board to decide what still works and what needs to be totally revised and/or kicked up a notch. Always set the bar high to attract the senior level attendees. Less experienced attendees will learn, as well as have the opportunity to network with those who can become their mentors and/or who will influence their careers.

What programs and activities would you like to see the Greater Midwest Chapter offer?

Dana: Educational programming that features interaction with other attendees. I have found it to be a very effective way to get to know other professionals in a short time.

Francine: Attendees are looking for all kinds of experiences when considering which meeting/event to attend. There are dramatic changes in the way we learn and communicate. 

I love the “Un-Conference.” Putting enjoyment back into the mix and giving people time to get to know each other and establish strong relationships are important.

Some program ideas:

  • Bring students in to teach and/or work one on one with us.
  • Have different levels of classes, like at the Apple Store.
  • Offer courses on topics like technology for the tech savvy versus the tech challenged; how to manage and organize email/social media overload; and just how many things can we do with these iPhones?
  • Have a business session during a finance or business class at one of our Chicago universities. 
  • Check with some of the local organizations (e.g. Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Arts and Business Council, Commission on Chicago Landmarks) on how our members can participate in one of their educational opportunities.

We need to encourage those in our industry to be well-rounded with outside interests, community involvement and knowledge of the world we live in, be it the global environment, international/local politics, environmental concerns, etc. Educational offerings in any of these areas would be welcome.


How can GMC meet the needs of members who live outside of the Chicago area?

Dana: Design experiences that offer them the opportunity to easily connect with other planners and appropriate suppliers, as well as provide benefits that offset their investment to get to Chicago (time, travel, housing, etc.). The above-mentioned model of educational event would be attractive.

Francine: Building programming around major events works well. Some creative events are taking place in GMC cities outside of Chicago. Connecting virtually is key. Also, involving these members on committees which don’t require face-to-face participation keeps them active. 

We have excellent attendance and a high level of interest during chapter activities at the PCMA annual. Since Chicago is on board next, maybe we can do something unique and bring in people earlier for a special GMC activity.

When you look in your crystal ball, what do you see for GMC? For the industry?

Dana: I would like to see GMC as a resource for problem-solving through member connections. GMC represents a lot of very experienced planners and suppliers who could be positioned as go-to experts for planners and suppliers who are new and/or oversee small events. Not only would this population, and their clients, benefit enormously from veterans’ input, but the industry would benefit from having new planners and suppliers who have learned the ropes from members.

I would like to see the industry continue stretching itself so that we are always questioning whether we are planning what is best for our clients/members/attendees.


Francine: The economy, continued industry growth, emergence of new leaders, and the ongoing direction of PCMA all will influence our future.

We should develop more industry diversity in the organization, bringing in the business services and shoulder industries which thrive on our business but have no idea of the value of membership. This would also lead to new learning opportunities and business connections for all of us.

The overall value, economic impact and employment opportunities within our industry are enormous. We are seeing more recognition outside the industry within the financial market, entertainment industry, university, and business communities.

There is a need to get pertinent information into the hands of those who need it in an organized, professional and interesting way. BOB.tv does the best job of this, using knowledge, sophistication and creativity to get timely and useful ideas and information out to the right audience. They are setting the standard. PCMA Today’s Top Stories is yet another excellent example of good information we can use immediately.

As well as we are doing as a chapter, and with the current business upswing within our industry, it is critical to remain current, never become too comfortable, continue to reinvent ourselves and always keep our eyes and ears open for new business ideas and marketing and membership opportunities.

Greater Midwest Chapter