Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 11 2015

Taking A Scaleable Approach To Changing A Conference


PCMA and Freeman have worked together to refine it based on the constantly evolving behaviors and preferences of Convening Leaders attendees. In 2016, the Learning Lounge at the Vancouver Convention Centre will deliver a range of environments that cater to different personalities and learning styles. Stacey Thorp, Executive Producer, Freeman, says this year will include new additions such as a Global Coffee House where attendees can catch how-to clinics featuring 10-minute talks on focused topics during session breaks and Knowledge Dens for small group discussions.

“We’re always listening to attendees to determine what resources will be most beneficial in the time and space outside traditional education sessions,”  Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP, Senior Vice President, Education and Events, PCMA says. “The Learning Lounge is the ideal place where attendees can find more opportunities that are customizable to their needs and expectations.”

The ideas in the Learning Lounge aren’t just scaleable for PCMA. The environment is designed to inspire meeting professionals from all types of organizations to try new formats in their own programming.

“The Learning Lounge is a great showcase of different learning and networking formats — mini-theatres, workshops, peer discussions and more,” Dan Traver, CEM, Business Development Vice President, Freeman says.“These types of ideas can be applied to events of any size looking to increase attendee or exhibitor engagement.”

Harnessing Transformative Technology

Change in the conference industry isn’t solely rooted in spaces and speakers, though. It’s also driven by the growing cast of apps, software and other technology systems. In addition to new learning formats, Convening Leaders will give meeting professionals a chance to take emerging event technologies for test drives. From using Freeman’s FXP | touch during the general session to connecting with experts in TechCentral, the program will give attendees a glimpse of many new tools. While a technology can offer plenty of bells and whistles, it’s important to avoid adopting technology simply for technology’s sake.

“Technology is clearly a very empowering tool for creating more interesting and interactive experiences,” says Richard Reid, Vice President, Business Development, Freeman, who regularly tracks and evaluates event technology. “However, event planners need to evaluate opportunities to integrate emerging technologies into the event experience based on its purpose and value to the experience.”

Thinking Outside The Budget Box

For many conference organizers, all this talk of change will raise one prohibitive question: is there any way this can work for my budget? While cost is a clear concern, it’s important to develop a long-term strategy rather than focus on immediate dollar signs.

“New approaches do not always require big budgets,” Traver says. “Sometimes, it’s helpful to brainstorm what parts of an event can be improved regardless of budget just to imagine what’s possible.”

Traver highlights that once an organization decides to make changes, they don’t have to happen all at once. “It is important implement change by design, often over two or three years to see improvement in attendee satisfaction and operating efficiencies,” Traver says.

“It’s all about the attendee experience — which is not exclusive to a large budget,” Thorp says. “Program elements that truly engage the attendee and add value to the experience are the best. The key is to be open to new ideas and new formats that demonstrate the value of your event and your organization.”

Looking to spark some of those new ideas? Click here to get in touch with Freeman to discuss your organization’s audience and objectives.

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