Meeting professionals deal with a range of what-ifs throughout a typical day of educational programming, but the organizers of the PCMA Education Conference have decided to add some additional logistical concerns to their list of potential concerns. On Monday, June 12, they will forgo the ease of having attendees attend educational sessions under one roof at the Marriott Marquis and instead spread them across New York City for immersive programming in six off-site venues. These include two Broadway theaters, the Microsoft Flagship Store, the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, Central Park’s iconic Tavern on the Green, and a trendy event space on Park Avenue.
When Kelly Coppola, senior director of business events strategy for PCMA, told me about the programming, I immediately understood the benefit for EduCon participants: Who wouldn’t enjoy a chance to explore more of the Big Apple? However, I also recognized that more freedom for attendees will mean additional stress for organizers. So why does Coppola want to deal with more shuttle service, more Manhattan traffic, and more potential challenges?
“The benefits far outweigh the operational challenges with moving groups in an afternoon,” Coppola said. “By moving people out of the standard conference format to breathe fresh air and discover a new environment, we’ll be able to reactivate their brains and enhance the ability to accept and retain new information.”
In addition to preventing the typical post-lunch conference food coma, Carrie Johnson, senior program manager at PCMA, pointed out that the chance to see other venues is a critical piece of delivering on the promise of this year’s theme for the conference: Where New Ideas and Event Design Converge. “We want attendees to be able to see what’s happening at other venues and how other designers are utilizing space in new ways,” Johnson said. “The takeaways from the off-site immersive sessions will help shape conversations as attendees learn how to apply those lessons to their own events.”
Monday afternoon won’t be the only piece that feels different to returning Education Conference attendees. Johnson said she wants to completely reimagine their experience in the host venue, too. “In comparison to historical Education Conferences, this will be less about filling every open space with activation and more about elevating the quality of the conversation,” Johnson said. “We’ll be providing zones where people can have more white space to interact and share ideas. Our ultimate goal is to create a comfortable place to practice uncomfortable things. Because that is the ultimate path to growth.”