When 800 leaders from the business-events industry arrived in New York City for the PCMA Education Conference, they were prepared to refresh their thinking. Participants had agreed to be receptive to unconventional ideas when they registered for the conference, and the crowd delivered on their promises to embrace new perspectives on how to engage attendees face-to-face. From June 11–14, a cast of experts from inside and outside the events industry challenged participants to think differently about the ways they connect with their attendees, work with their own colleagues, and present ideas to their bosses. Here are six of the most unforgettable quotes from the program:
1) “Without courage, there will not be change.” — Fred Dixon, president and CEO, NYC & Company
When PCMA President and CEO Deborah Sexton asked Dixon for his thoughts on the most important trait for designing successful meetings, the leader of New York City’s tourism efforts highlighted that event organizers must be brave enough to fix something that doesn’t seem broken. “You have to be willing to make changes to things that are doing well and feeling comfortable,” Dixon said.
2) “Partner with those who are least like you.” — Sarah Robb O’Hagan, marketing expert, endurance athlete, and author
In the events industry, there’s a big focus on helping attendees find their tribes of fellow participants with similar values and attitudes about life. While spending time with like-minded individuals can create a sense of comfort in an unfamiliar conference environment, Robb O’Hagan thinks that in the workplace it’s crucial to mix some opposing forces. For example, if you’re an extrovert, find some introverts in your office to provide a quieting force in your approach.
3) “You have to look for inspiration. To do that, you have to be brave, curious, open, and excited.” — Carla Johnson, author, storyteller, and creative explorer at Type A Communications
With a heavy workload on your plate, it’s easy to want to tune out all the noise around you to focus on the tasks and to-do items. However, Johnson reminded participants that finding new ideas relies on soaking in all the energy in their surroundings. But in the process of trying to be more efficient, it’s easy to decide what to focus on rather than being open to new ideas, new sounds, and new experiences. “When we tune things out too much,” Johnson said, “we lose the opportunity for inspiration.”
4) “Creativity is not about thinking outside the box. It is about realizing that there is no box.” — Brady Miller, senior event consultant and creative director, Stratelyst Creative
As you approach your next event, it’s easy to operate with a set of constraints: plated meals, one-hour time slots for breakout sessions, a stage at the front of a room, and other traditional pieces of the on-site environment. Miller told participants that shredding standard thinking relies on the ability to forget every rule and guiding principle.
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5) “Realize the power you have in making people feel special and different.” — Matt Wallaert, behavioral scientist and entrepreneur
Wallaert’s opening keynote address focused on the importance of behavioral design in conference environments. Wallaert said that most attendees accidentally engage with people who are the same while they’re at meetings and events. Rather than celebrating sameness, event organizers must look for opportunities to create personalized experiences that remind attendees of the attitudes and behaviors that make each of them a one-of-a-kind human being.
6) “There’s never been a more exciting time to think about restructuring what you do every day.” — Luke Williams, executive director of the W.R. Berkley Innovation Lab, NYU’s Stern School of Business
While using new technologies and navigating new attendee expectations can sound daunting to event organizers, Williams reminded participants that changes present opportunities for new possibilities. As he wrapped up the conference with a closing keynote, his remarks gave participants the extra fuel they needed to return to their offices with new energy to tackle the next generation of business events. If you’re looking for even more fuel, check out the Q&A with Williams in this recent issue of Convene.
Interested in learning more about how the PCMA Education Conference challenged the typical framework of a business event? Click here for an insider’s view of the program’s six off-site immersive experiences. Also, be sure to register for the rebroadcast of Education Conference on Tuesday, June 27 where you’ll hear plenty of additional inspiring quotes.