Bergmann My dad has an event company. They organize public events and festivals and so on. I've been working for him, with him — I think when I was six years old. Since then I've worked for him every summer. It was my choice to join the family business or to get into this similar industry. I came to Edinburgh to study event management because I wanted to broaden my horizons. I'm very familiar with what my dad does, but I knew there was more out there.
What do you look to get out of a meeting as an attendee?
Gonzalez The education is definitely a big pull. Because I'm not really in the industry, because I'm not too experienced, I like the [sessions] that are a little bit more basic, because that's more of a takeaway for me than the more advanced ones.
Bergmann What I value is exchanging thoughts with peers, especially from outside my usual social or professional groups. Especially because I'm from Europe, it gives me the chance to extend my reach.
How important is social media as part of a face-to-face event?
Gonzalez Last year at [PCMA Convening Leaders in] San Diego I was able to use Twitter a lot; I was just attending. This year was very different, because Convening Leaders was right in my own backyard [in Orlando] and I was the president of [Rosen's PCMA student chapter]. I didn't get a chance to really just be an attendee and engage in the event itself. As soon as I saw PCMA had jumped on Instagram I used that, because on Instagram I can connect all of my social-media accounts. It makes it super-easy, and it's always great to take pictures with your updates anyway. If I've gotten any business cards, I send them emails right away. And then if they're on LinkedIn I will connect with them on LinkedIn as well.
Bergmann I don't use my professional [Twitter] account that much outside of conferences. But through the conference, I love using Twitter. This is a great way to engage with people. I use LinkedIn a lot as a post[-conference] sort of thing. All the business cards I collected, I write them on LinkedIn after the conference, which is a nice way to keep in touch. But not so much before or during.
What's something you'd like to change about the traditional meeting?
Gonzalez Maybe some interaction or some activity during the networking or social event, because sometimes I feel like it's just hors d'oeuvres and you walk around and talk. And there's not a whole lot going on other than that. I would love to see some really cool activity or just some really clever game.
Bergmann If somebody has something to say, I'm happy to listen to them for two hours. But it can't be only that. I could imagine that a lot more interactive educational sessions — people could benefit from that, I think. This is one of the great advantages that the Internet and social networks have. I don't think you can sit there and listen to someone just giving me information at a conference. I want to respond to it and hear other people's responses. This is what a face-to-face meeting is for.