Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

November 14 2014

An Insider’s Look into PCMA’s Convening Leaders, Part 3

By Carolyn Clark

Part 3: General Session Experiences

There couldn’t be higher stakes than creating a Keynote session for the meeting industry’s most senior planners. How do you create something unique for an audience that has “been there” and “done that” so many times before?

A clear organizational vision, an inventive staff, and a collaborative strategic partner like Freeman who knows how to showcase cutting-edge technology in innovative ways. Oh…and lots of hours of planning and dedication to see it through.

“PCMA is bold in taking risks and they are also very candid when things don’t work out as planned. Instead of shying away from change, they embrace it and ask ‘how can we do better?’” says FreemanXP’s Carrie Kennedy, the show’s Executive Producer. “That also inspires the Freeman team to look for new ways to demonstrate how meetings and events can evolve.”

Dave Gaudet, the show’s new Creative Director, agrees. “This year’s theme - Make No Little Plans - reflects our shared value that face-to-face meetings can have a big impact. And it’s a great starting point for the creative process.”

SEE ALSO: Brainstorming Convening Leaders

And when the team brainstorms, nothing is off the table, according to Kelly Peacy, CMP, PCMA’s Senior Vice President, Education and Events.

“We work with our Freeman creative team to draw from outside the industry as much as possible, asking a lot of “what if?” questions that might enhance the experience for the attendee.” Attendee feedback is also a major component to ideation.

Over the years, that’s meant reducing the number of “talking heads” on stage, tightening up typical association business to get to the featured speaker quicker, and providing even more of an infotainment/edutainment experience.

“People love being entertained,” says Peacy. “And while that’s not our primary goal in the general session (that would be education), entertainment and compelling visuals all contribute to the overall experience.”

PCMA and Freeman also take production cues from key issues facing the industry as well as attributes of the host city. For this year’s meeting in Chicago, PCMA’s hometown, that means paying tribute to the area’s beautiful parks and gardens and showcasing the cityscape.

“Well designed cities, like Chicago, are a mix of interesting architecture and open space,” says Gaudet. “Convening Leaders will reflect a similar mix in the event design – not just in the general session but in the educational programs and free time for networking.”

Recent technology advancements in projection mapping will make the cityscape concept a reality, using multiple projections to create layers and texture for the stage. 

SEE ALSO: The New Technology that Will Transform Your General Session

That’s just one example of a big idea you’ll see at the conference that’s also very easily scalable to fit just about any size show for a wide range of industries.

And as is often the case with PCMA, the specific application of the technology in the way it will be done at Convening Leaders is something brand new – even for Freeman.

But experimenting is much easier when you have a cohesive team at your side.

“Our ‘One Freeman’ enterprise brings together talented people in content strategy, creative design, audio-visual, and of course, logistics and execution, so we’re able to tap into new ideas and different skills and experience from Freeman Expo, Freeman AV and FreemanXP,” says Bill Knight, Production CAD Manager, Freeman AV. “And because we have collaborated with PCMA for many years now, there is a level of trust to experiment with new ideas and technology.”

Major win or epic fail? Decide for yourself when you attend PCMA’s Convening Leaders this January in Chicago.

For the third story in this five-part series, we explored how the PCMA/Freeman relationship lends to a flawless general session experience. Look for more features in the coming months on how this partnership helps make PCMA’s Convening Leaders the meeting for the meetings industry.

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