From PCMA’s Education Conference in Cleveland: Hackathon Heroes

Author: David McMillin       

Before the PCMA Education Conference officially kicked off in Cleveland on June 10, a group of participants ditched that it’s-not-possible mindset — and the luxury of time — in a hackathon at the HIMSS Innovation & Conference Center. The event paired four groups of five event organizers and suppliers together to develop solutions to enhance learning and experience design at Convening Leaders 2019.

A panel of three judges crowned Team HACK-unamata the winners. (Their name, a nod to The Lion King, should have made the team deserving of a separate award.) The team included Laura Johnson, senior event engagement & community relations manager at Vector Bank Colorado; Brooke Shevtsov, specialist in events and education at CompTIA; Pippa O’Shea, education manager at the American Bakers Association; Julia Richardson, director of conventions & marketing at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages; and one wildcard, who provided an outside-the-industry perspective.

Richardson told PCMA that the winning solution, titled “Face Forward,” is built to “encourage young people to get involved and to enhance the experience of the planners who are still early in their careers.” The concept includes capturing five videos of millennials who share their own stories of their work with PCMA. “We want to share individual stories about attending Convening Leaders,” Richardson said. “Then, those videos can live on social platforms and the channels where this audience prefers to consume media.”

That storytelling aspect is about more than attendee marketing, though. The idea aims to elevate those individual storytellers to on-site brand ambassadors with life-size cardboard cutouts of the characters serving as meet-up points where other young planners and suppliers can find each other.

Some of the members of her team were millennials themselves and acknowledged challenges of integrating into the community at Convening Leaders. Richardson had noticed a struggle with engaging the millennial members of her own team before she arrived in Cleveland. “I have millennials on my staff, and I invited one of them to come to Education Conference with me,” Richardson said. “She declined the invitation and said it wasn’t for her. So I think we have to address it. It’s the future of PCMA.”

The winners received more than a round of applause. Thanks to Visit Austin and the Austin Convention Center, Richardson and each of her teammates received $500 gift cards. The money was a bonus, but Richardson said that the experience of the hackathon alone was worth celebrating. “It was an awesome experience,” Richardson said. “The whole team was so energetic, and they had so many ideas. I hope PCMA adds more hackathons to focus on developing solutions for the entire events community.”

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