Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

May 31 2014

Make No Little Plans

By Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP, Senior Vice President, Education & Meetings

Taking to heart the words of a primary architect of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair as we design Convening Leaders 2015.


A long time ago, the city of Chicago held a big, international event. I mean big, as in more than 600 acres of space, more than 25 million attendees from 40 countries, and a six-month-long schedule of events. The event encompassed more than 200 buildings, almost all of which were meant to be temporary, with 250,000 displays and 72,000 tons of exhibit materials. Programs from this mega-event indicate that more than 1,200 sessions were delivered on a variety of topics, ranging from agriculture to works of art. The big new technology that was showcased throughout the program was electricity.

The event I’m describing is the World’s Columbian Exposition, otherwise known as the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. It was planned and set up in a little under three years, with a $25-million budget — give or take a few million.

The expo’s directors and organizers, most notably architect Daniel Burnham and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, chose classical architecture as its theme. And little did they know the lasting impact their event would have on urban planning as we know it, to say nothing of Chicago itself.

I’m sharing all of this as we are deep into the strategy and creative phase of planning for PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2015, which will be held in Chicago. Our entire team has been inspired by this amazing event held there so many years ago. As Burnham once said: “Make no little plans.” Well, we’re not thinking small, and we’re not making little plans when it comes to Convening Leaders.

We’ll have the wide, open spaces of McCormick Place’s West Building as our “fairground.” The whole PCMA team has become inspired by the styles of architecture found throughout Chicago and visible through our headquarters office’s windows. We’ve also been struck by the beauty of Chicago’s parks and lakefront and the variety of cultures found throughout the city. I expect all of this will be featured heavily in our program design and experience.

All of this got me thinking: What inspires my fellow planners and event strategists? How do you begin to lay the groundwork for your amazing events? Is it the physical space, the city you’re in, something you read in a book or magazine? What fuels the passion and the long hours you put into your face-to-face experiences?

For me, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more inspired by those four simple words: Make no little plans. PCMA’s mission is to make big plans, for you to see and experience, so you can take away things that will or won’t work for your own events. I think it’s how we should all feel as professionals in this industry. Make big plans that show the value of our professionalism and the power of face-to-face events. Make big plans that keep us challenged and connected to one another.

Make big plans that keep inspiring us.

History Lessons

Did you know that one of the four stars on the Chicago city flag represents the 1893 Columbian Exposition? You can learn more about this important event at the Chicago History Museum the next time you’re in town. Meanwhile, make sure you mark your calendar for PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2015, Jan. 11–14. And be sure to tell me what inspires you! Email me anytime at kpeacy@pcma.org.

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