Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

November 15 2016

The Big Question: Is Your Meeting Design Delivering Real Opportunities For Collaboration?

David McMillin

When your attendees aren’t at your conference, they’re focused on one key piece of success in the workplace: working together. A recent Google survey of 258 North American companies revealed that 73 percent of business leaders believe their organizations can be more successful if their employees can work in more flexible and collaborative ways. But working together matters outside the office, too. When attendees take time away from work to be part of a conference, collaboration is crucial to creating a powerful experience that educates and inspires every member of the audience.

“Today’s attendees are looking to be part of a real conversation,” Deborah Sexton, President and CEO, PCMA, says. “They value thoughts from expert speakers in education sessions, but they also want to hear perspectives from their peers. Meeting and event professionals must create programming that gives everyone an opportunity to contribute to the discussion.”

The Right Environment = Engagement

It’s not just about curating the right educational formats, though. The environment is equally important. Mark Tester, Director, Austin Convention Center, says that he is seeing many meeting professionals explore alternative furniture choices to encourage greater engagement. “It’s not the schoolroom table and the black meeting room chair any longer,” Tester says. “We’re seeing much more of the non-traditional set. That would include couches, bean bags and other [furniture] that can get people relaxed.”

Tester, his team at the Austin Convention Center and the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau are working with the PCMA Education and Events team to transform the venue for Convening Leaders 2017. From open-space laboratory environments to places for Brain Dates, PCMA’s flagship event will be built to satisfy an increased appetite for creative approaches to conference design.

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More Than Millennials

The desire for more collaboration and innovation applies to everyone on the registration list. While the emerging generation of attendees is helping accelerate change in the conference industry, Kelly Coppola, Senior Director, Business Event Strategy, PCMA, says that every member of every age group can benefit from embracing an open-space learning environment.

“It’s not just generational,” Coppola says. “We all crave community. It’s why we attend — to get face-to-face and to have a conversation.”

Want to get a glimpse of how PCMA is preparing to create that powerful sense of community at Convening Leader 2017 with new updates to the learning environment? Check out the latest installment in the “Designing ColLABoration: The Road to Convening Leaders” webisode series below.

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