8) The meetings industry has evolved quite a bit since you started at PCMA. What has been the most surprising change?
Honestly, the biggest surprise is how slowly the industry has changed. It’s tremendously frustrating. As an industry, we are too risk-averse, and I don’t think that bodes well for the future. The organizations that aren’t embracing change are going to find themselves in serious trouble. I’m not suggesting that people turn their events upside down each year, but they do need to be comfortable adding new elements and adapting to new ways of delivering education.
9) What’s the biggest secret — okay, maybe not really a secret, but something that very few might know — that you feel like you can share as you prepare to leave PCMA?
I was hijacked in the late 60s to Cuba. I was on my way from Miami to San Juan on Thanksgiving weekend, and that particular weekend alone, there were four flights hijacked from Chicago. Cubans were trying to go home. There were four families onboard, and it was very clear that this was not a deranged person taking over the plane. They simply wanted to get home. We landed in Havana and took a bus to Varadero. Then, after approximately 24 hours, they flew us via a Red Cross airlift where I was interviewed by the FBI.
My father was a pipe and cigar smoker, and while I was there, I bought four or five cigars as a gift and snuck them in my coat pocket. I flew home, and my father greeted me with an immediate question of where the cigars were. I dug in my pocket and pulled out all but one that was broken. My father looked like he might leave me at the airport.
10) Event professionals have a range of big challenges and opportunities on their minds. How should they navigate the next frontier of business events?
I think people in our industry have to challenge the norm. Meeting professionals, hotels, and venues all have to be willing to ask themselves if there are more efficient ways of achieving success. Everyone needs to be curious and be upfront about offering new ideas and new solutions.
11) Looking ahead into your business events crystal ball, where will PCMA plant its flag in the next decade?
The world is a huge place, and the organization is disciplined to focus on APAC, EMEA, and the Americas. We must be focused on establishing a brand in these places first. And it’s not so much a part of the world, but it’s the idea that we, as an organization, want to deliver education and global connections for everyone in the business events industry — no matter where they may be located.
12) Sherrif Karamat is about to take over the reins as CEO (you may have heard of him). Can you share your most important piece of advice for him?