You may know Willie Benjamin as an active PCMA member, but it’s time for you to understand the real Willie: a viral video sensation. When Benjamin was Director of Conference Logistics for the Direct Marketing Association, he recalls stepping into the spotlight and singing with the band during the DMA’s Annual Meeting ECHO AWARDS Banquet, which is the equivalent to the Oscars. By the time he woke up the next morning, he was a YouTube superstar with attendee videos capturing his performance.
Those videos did more than showcase his vocal skills, though. Benjamin also credits them with creating a bigger buzz around the event in the following year.
“We had a huge increase in submissions for the award, and we also had more members simply wanting to attend the event,” Benjamin says. “People realized they wanted to be a part of what was happening.”
Now, Benjamin is working to help more members of the meetings industry harness the power of emerging technologies as Chair of the Digital Strategy Task Force. His big goal for 2013: to fuel the online conversation among more than 6,100 PCMA members with the organization’s new tool, Catalyst.
“We want Catalyst to become the vehicle that members use to seek advice, talk about industry news and weigh in on industry polls that can help our day-to-day working lives,” Benjamin says.
Benjamin hopes that these online discussion groups will help challenge planners and suppliers to think about how to approach their responsibilities differently in the digital era.
“Meeting professionals have to learn to step out of their comfort zones and realize that the way we planned meetings and conventions years ago is not the same now,” Benjamin says. “We have to make our meetings and conventions live beyond the four or five days of the actual conference.”
Benjamin stresses the importance of mobile applications and 365-member engagement strategies in order to achieve that ongoing connection between a meeting, an organization and attendees.
When it comes to the actual on-site component, Benjamin stresses that understanding digital tools is a vital piece of a planner’s success plan.
“Digital technology has become just as important to the planning process as making sure there is coffee at the meeting,” Benjamin says. “Whether is it speaker networking, Tweet walls, YouTube, mobile apps, digital signage, electronic posters, virtual exhibit halls or live streaming, meeting professionals must embrace the use of technology.”