A meeting planner’s success does not simply count on meetings. While managing a flawless attendee experience is certainly still a crucial component of the job, more organizations are asking meeting planners to expand their knowledge of marketing and communications principles and concepts. Why? Because meetings and conferences are an extension, and oftentimes a driver, of each organization’s larger marketing plan and overall mission.
At PCMA, the meetings team knows that Convening Leaders represents the biggest opportunity to connect the organization’s vision with planners and suppliers from around the world. In order to bring the brand to life, PCMA has partnered with Freeman for more than 10 years to develop each year’s conference theme and craft a supporting strategy that will resonate with the organization’s community. For the 2016 conference, “Cultivating Creative Moments” emerged as the winner that embodied PCMA’s innovative spirit.
“This year, PCMA selected a theme reflects the evolution of the event by encouraging individuals to create their own event experience and offering different formats to learn and network,” Stacey Thorp, Executive Producer, Freeman, says.
“At PCMA, we are dedicated to delivering the best education in the meetings industry, but we know that our members and attendees each have their own preferences and expectations when it comes to the conference experience,” Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP, Senior Vice President, Education and Events, PCMA, says. “This year’s theme and schedule invite attendees to be active participants in shaping what Convening Leaders means to them.”
The theme isn’t just about the organization, though. Thorp highlights that the location always plays a critical role in shaping the creative strategy.
“The Vancouver Convention Center is unique because it’s located on the harbor front with beautiful views of the downtown on one side and Stanley Park on the other,” Thorp says. “With the event, the venue and the city, there is a lot to experience, so the theme encourages attendees to cultivate and create their own moments.”
Bringing the Conference Brand to Life Away From the Convention Center
Attendees won’t have to wait until January to get into their creative headspace, though. By now, “Cultivating Creative Moments” is already beginning to echo in the ears of meeting professionals and suppliers. From print advertisements in Convene to social media posts to email newsletter messaging, PCMA and Freeman are using this year’s theme to build pre-conference buzz.
“Whether you are a first-time attendee or a seasoned participant, we hope to build anticipation for new learning and networking experiences,” Thorp says.
One look at the activity surrounding #pcmacl reveals that the anticipation is indeed building, and members of the PCMA community are accepting the invitation to use the speakers on the program, the space in the convention center and the energy in Vancouver to create their own moments in January. Thorp highlights that the theme accomplishes another key function: inspiring everyone — not just the attendees who will travel to British Columbia.
“Even those who are not able to attend on-site can create their own special moments through the hybrid option,” Dan Traver, CEM, Business Development Vice President, Freeman says. “The theme and promotional messages enhance PCMA’s brand as an industry education leader.”
Making Sure the Moments Happen
The theme makes for more than an effective marketing tool; it guides PCMA’s on-site data analysis decision making, too. David Haas, Director, Technology Solutions, FreemanXP, says that his team will rely on FXP | touch to help bring those “moments” to life for attendees in Vancouver. FreemanXP’s proprietary tool is built to help meeting professionals and trade show organizers to better engage attendees while collecting real-time feedback on audience engagement.
“The data can be used to quantitatively tell us which speakers made the biggest impression and had the most engaging content,” Haas says. “ For the attendee perspective, we can tell you who engaged and who did not engage through simple audience tasks like thumbs up or down polling, multiple choice questions, slider bar and text responses.”
This information serves a critical purpose: the ability to change quickly.
“All of this data is extremely valuable and can be delivered in real time to help organizers make on-site and post-event adjustments,” Haas says.
Rather than solely relying on the findings from surveys distributed when everyone goes home, Haas says that more meeting planners are working with their mobile app providers to generate more information that can create immediate opportunities to enhance the experience while it’s actually happening. Forget the wait-until-next-year model. By embracing the power of data, meeting planners can make sure this year is everything attendees want it to be.
Tracking the Continuing Evolution of Convening Leaders
While Freeman’s team will help PCMA make on-the-fly adjustments in Vancouver, the company has also been helping PCMA regularly reevaluate how to make Convening Leaders a more compelling experience year after year.
“Providing attendees a high-quality learning experience has long been one of the key objectives of Convening Leaders,” Travers says. “The event has evolved, in part, because PCMA tests different education and networking formats based on attendee feedback.”
“We believe in the power of experimentation, and we aren’t afraid of failure,” Peacy says. “Each year, we aim to take risks so that attendees can see the tests in action.”
In 2016, those tests will continue. From new additions to the Learning Lounge to new learning tracks and more, Vancouver will be home to plenty of first-of-its-kind Convening Leaders programming. After all, PCMA believes in taking risks. However, the organization works with Freeman works to make sure these risks are likely to pay off.
“The event goals inform the conference theme, and the engagement formats shape the marketing messages,” Thorp says. “It is all connected.”
Looking for more insights on the role your events play in the marketing mix? Interested in figuring out how to make your next meeting play a bigger role in placing your organization’s brand in the spotlight?
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