Seven weeks after concluding PCMA Convening Leaders 2014 in Boston, I gathered up the team and we headed to Chicago's McCormick Place, where we held a day-long idea-sharing session for our 2015 annual meeting. When I say team, what I really mean is more than 50 people representing various PCMA staff departments, Choose Chicago, McCormick Place, and Freeman/Freeman XP — all staring at me, waiting for direction.
Although it can be intimidating to have that many stakeholders looking to you, all heavily invested in the success of your program, I wouldn't have it any other way. This is the team that will bring Convening Leaders 2015 to life.
The purpose of bringing this group together was to think and to share. What new ideas had seven weeks post-Boston inspired? What kind of new design framework could we build to create a great event? And, of course, what new risks could we take, so our members could see them in action?
This is the second year that we've held this kickoff session, and since then I've received some questions on how the day was structured. I'll share it here in three steps:
1. IDENTIFY YOUR CRITICAL PLAYERS
We took advantage of our PCMA HQ office's Chicago location to have 19 staff members present, from our events, education, marketing, global-development, partner-relations, membership, and Education Foundation departments. The staff team felt excited to be a part of our collaborative process from the very beginning. This is important, because in the coming months I'll count on them to carry the torch.
2. BREAK IT DOWN
We focused our brainstorming around four big-bucket topics: overall experience theme, educational strategy, food-and-beverage, and program enhancements/attendee experience. I divided the group into five teams of nine or 10 people each; with each topic discussion, the teams changed. Discussion around each topic was five minutes, after which the groups discussed ideas for 25 minutes, and then we all shared our results for another 25 minutes. We went through lots of flipchart paper and took photos, so we could compile notes afterward.
3. CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT
Thanks to our partners at Freeman and McCormick Place, a standard meeting room was transformed into five areas outfitted with comfortable furniture, flipcharts, toys for fidgety thinkers, and snacks and beverages. For our 25-min-ute report-out sessions, we gathered back at round tables where we could debrief the group as awhole.
Once the day was over, we had pages and pages of ideas. Our task now is to sift through everything to find the elements that will bring value to or enhance the Convening Leaders experience. I look forward to sharing our plans with you.
See You in Chicago
Mark your calendar! Convening Leaders 2015 will be held at McCormick Place West in Chicago on Jan. 11-14. Watch this space in the coming months for more details.