Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 17 2013

Why the Meetings Industry is Welcoming Hackers

By David McMillin


As the Hynes Convention Center prepares to welcome a cast of thousands of meeting professionals for PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2014, the audience will include a somewhat unexpected segment: 25 IT students and web developers. Their participation is part of the first-ever PCMA Hackathon. Arranged by FreemanXP and sponsored by QuickMobile, the Hackathon is an open challenge to an emerging generation of coding experts who will work in teams to develop the next big mobile idea that can revolutionize connectivity.

“Planners, attendees, speakers and sponsors all share the desire to connect with each other, with education and with business opportunities,” Trevor Roald, Mobile Event Technology Evangelist, QuickMobile says. “Mobile applications are helping to make those connections more convenient, and the PCMA Hackathon is designed to help uncover the next feature that will facilitate ongoing connections and communication.”

SEE ALSO: Full Convening Leaders Schedule

Some of the nation’s brightest IT minds attend universities scattered throughout the area, and Paolo Zeppa, Senior Vice President, Strategy, FreemanXP, says that Boston is an ideal location for the inaugural event.

“Boston is a mecca of schools focused on math, science and technology,” Zeppa says. “In addition to local developer and user groups, we have extended invitations to select Boston-area computer science professors who are focused on web and mobile application development and online social networks to bring their students.”

While the majority of meeting planners may be unfamiliar with the concept of a hackathon, Roald is no stranger to seeing them in action. He says that QuickMobile hosts internal innovation marathons to fuel new ideas within the organization.

“We put all our projects on hold for a full day and form cross-functional teams,” Roald says. “It’s impressive how bringing very different perspectives together can lead to very creative solutions. A highly technical engineer might devise an elegant sales or marketing solution or vice versa.”

The value of an outside perspective will play a key role in the PCMA Hackathon in Boston, too.

“We’ll be bringing these students and coders into a very unfamiliar industry,” Roald says. “Most likely, none of them will come with any preconceived notions of how annual meetings work. That fresh thinking plays an integral role in fueling creativity.”

They’ll be spending plenty of time thinking, too. The program gives participants 45 hours to build working functionality to address some piece of connectivity in a meeting. When the PCMA Hackathon is done, a panel of QuickMobile product experts and academic experts will reward the top three teams for their work. The winner receives $3,500, and second place receives $1,000. The third-place team goes home with $500. Convening Leaders attendees are welcome to see the kickoff on Monday at 1 PM in the Learning Lounge 2.0. Then get a look at the best ideas during an awards ceremony in the Learning Lounge 2.0 on Wednesday, January 15 at 11 AM.

SEE ALSO: Get Attendees to Download Your Meeting App

On a personal note for Roald, the PCMA Hackathon represents just how far the meetings industry has come in its ability to embrace the possibilities of mobile technology.

“A few years ago, I remember going to a special interest group on technology when Convening Leaders was in Seattle,” Roald says. “No one was using apps, and even I had an old flip phone. I remember discussing how all of a meeting’s content would be on this device in the near future and seeing some people roll their eyes.”

“Here we are today where that’s a reality and where we’re seeing organizations truly embrace how the continuing mobile evolution can transform the attendee experience,” Roald says. “The shift is incredibly exciting, and we’re proud to be working with PCMA and Freeman on this program. It’s a great sign of a healthy and innovative industry.”

You Can Help Shape the Hackathon

Have ideas about bringing people together that you'd like to see in your next mobile event app? Click here to submit your suggestions for the PCMA Hackathon developers. In the "submit" box, description at the bottom of the page, please include the words "Hackathon Ideas.” Ideas are welcome for consideration until Monday, January 13 at 11:00am.

Please log in to post comments.