As Angie Ranalli, vice president of sales, Midwest region, at San Diego Tourism Authority, embarks on her role as the chair of the 2021 PCMA Foundation Board of Trustees, she said she’s feeling “very confident” about the work the Foundation has done over the course of the last several years. “Member support and generosity has enabled us to provide more progressive tools” she said, and to help navigate all the disruption caused by the pandemic in 2020, so that “we were able to act on some big initiatives.”
Chief among them is the Business Events Compass. “With this report, we are supporting both our business event strategists and our supplier community with global research that is analytical, data-driven, which can translate to support for member businesses, hotels, and communities. I think the research is on point and remarkable,” Ranalli said. “We look forward to continuing with the updates to the Compass report and being able to deliver more tools. It was very progressive on the part of the Foundation to steward members’ donations so effectively. I am proud of that work. That’s been part of my journey with the foundation — I’ve seen us grow up. And I am grateful for the wisdom of past trustees and an excellent staff who’ve enabled us to deliver some great choices.”
Ranalli shared with Convene what else she is looking forward to in the coming year, both within and outside of her role chairing the Foundation.
What do you have in your sights as this year’s Chair of the Foundation Board of Trustees?
We’ll continue to curate our resources so that membership has the most relevant tools available. We recognize we need to be just as agile as our membership, so it’s important to pause and evaluate our progress often. I think we’ve all learned that important lesson.
People in our industry are characteristically resilient as they are critical thinkers. We’re accustomed to decision making while simultaneously handling multiple tasks, wearing many hats, all the while thinking 10 steps ahead. While the word “pivot” is overused, it best describes what the business events industry practices daily, consequently I see a positive outlook for 2021. I believe our stakeholders have the necessary grit to get to the other side of this epic crisis.
I’m especially looking forward to our Visionary Awards this year, where we’ll honor and celebrate our industry changemakers. With pent-up demand for lost time and re-energizing experiences last year, wanderlusts should take note of the Foundation’s upcoming events where we’ll auction exciting 2021-2022 travel experiences. Since EduCon offers a special ideation energy, I anticipate high interest and another successful event.
Continuing timely translational research through products like Compass, securing grants, and providing best-in-class education is part of our plan. We also want to continue outreach to those members who have been displaced by the pandemic and prepare them for other job opportunities with prized tools like DES.
So you see more face-to-face events happening in 2021?
Eyes wide open but I’m confident that we’ll see a return to live events in the near future. While it’s a personal choice for people to travel, we now have a yellow light, there’s a vaccine. We have a pathway to travel safely and our industry is compliant.
Do you think showing proof of vaccination will be a requirement for attending face-to-face events in the future?
It will be interesting to see if all airlines require it and if there is a role for convention centers as vaccination sites. Facilities could even mandate vaccines for entry to live events. Ultimately, it might be the way for attendees to feel confident to travel more freely and remove travel bans from respective employers.
But from a global perspective, we have a problem and opportunity to resolve since not all countries will have access to the vaccine as wealthier countries do. Our problem is obvious as we are a global mobile society, so unless everyone gets it, we won’t achieve herd immunity.
Meeting planners moved their in-person events to digital experiences. But for suppliers — the destination bureaus, hotels, and convention centers — there have been fewer opportunities for reinvention. From your perspective working at the San Diego Tourism Authority, what has it been like since last March when the lockdowns began?
First, it’s been heartbreaking to witness the massive number of talented colleagues who have been sidelined. When the crisis erupted, the industry was working at such a frenetic pace without pause — all eyes were focused day to day on delivering the next best live event. It was a perfect storm.
In my own work world, I’m grateful to have the unique pleasure of working with a highly skilled and experienced team. The crisis has not been lost on us in San Diego. The collaboration has been excellent day to day at all levels and I think our customers feel it.
Nothing could effectively move forward in this environment without authentic partnership from our business event strategists. And our PCMA members are excellent examples of knowing their boards, strategy, and mission. It’s made an incredible difference in this journey. It’s certainly not only San Diego who has this sentiment but every DMO, convention center, hotelier, and service provider.
I want to acknowledge those who are fortunate enough to still be employed as they are currently the true workhorses of the industry — all doing three to five people’s jobs. And there’s nothing that any of us want more than to see those roles that were dissolved come back as soon as possible. If we set the stage, it’s possible — if we’re bold enough to make some industry changes, invest in our partners, there are possibilities. I have a lot of confidence in those still working to make our industry better. If we retool the events industry, we’ll be better prepared for the next disruption — which will come.
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Personally, what have been your big takeaways over the past year?
It’s been incredible for me to track science — the breakthroughs and advances coming from many of our PCMA members’ organizations make me deeply humbled. Science has brought us not only one vaccine within nine months of the biggest pandemic in 100 years but two, with more to come. There have been so many extremely inspiring discoveries for humankind this year. Just think: Solar power is now below the cost of fossil fuels for the first time, with wind energy advances not far behind. The first-ever photon quantum computer just built is 100 trillion times faster than our most powerful supercomputers, enabling calculations in seconds. There have been breakthroughs in cancer treatments, regenerative medicine, and more exciting developments.
When you break it down, what we really do in our work is advance the human spirit. We create hope for the masses among the events that we all are part of.
PCMA members have the strategic opportunity to be the storytellers for those industries and professions that are changing the world. I gain tremendous satisfaction and pride in playing some small role in their events.
What do you think we’re going to be talking about in our industry a year from now?
Since we’re in for more instability for a while longer, we’ll require even more agility, more analysis and resources for the long haul.
We’ll hopefully prioritize and utilize data more effectively in everyday business decisions. And this practice will help us create a more accurate picture for our industry’s advocacy efforts. We can collaborate more effectively across all parts of the events industry as long as we’re all speaking the same language — and I think we are seeing this happen now more effectively.
If we’ve learned anything from last year, it is that we need to change by design, not by crisis.
Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.