Gregory O’Dell, Chair, 2019 PCMA Board of Directors


Gregory O’Dell

Gregory O’Dell, chair of the PCMA Board of Directors, addresses Convening Leaders 2019 on Jan. 9 in Pittsburgh. (Jacob Slaton)

How did you first get involved with PCMA at a national level?

I got involved with the organization as a natural extension of my role as president and CEO of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. With D.C.’s position as a first-tier city and home to a lot of leading associations, it’s a great hub of activity for many PCMA members. When I first became part of the business events industry [after overseeing the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission], PCMA helped expose me to the ecosystem of our industry. It was very fortuitous, and it introduced me to the organization on a national level.

How has the industry evolved during your time as a volunteer leader for the organization?

My career did not begin in this industry, so I had a different lens from an economic development perspective. When I first got involved with PCMA, it was an interesting time for meetings and events. We had to justify our existence and explain the cost of muffins at a hotel. We were constantly on the defensive, explaining why meetings weren’t boondoggles.

Fast forward to now, and we have gone from justifying ourselves to proactively explaining the exponential value of meetings and how business growth can be propelled by meetings. I’ve seen PCMA take the lead in that evolution and act as a real thought leader for helping define the entire industry.

What are your goals for your upcoming role as Chair?

We have a bold new strategic plan for the organization, and we have a very aggressive business plan. That strategic framework makes my job a bit simpler: It is to support the organization and focus on the implementation of that vision.

We are looking to be a global audience-focused organization that will lead the industry forward by providing education and innovation. My focus point will be supporting the organization and continuing to push forward with the ambitious plan that many past volunteers played a role in outlining.

What are the biggest opportunities and challenges ahead in 2019 and beyond?

It’s a mixed blessing because the challenges are also the opportunities. It’s one thing to say you’re a global organization. It’s another thing to truly be a global organization. There’s a Herculean effort to find the right talent and deploy that talent to reflect the organization’s vision. And while we need to be global, we also need to act locally. The needs are unique in every region. It is a massive undertaking to understand those needs and then react locally to our members, our partners, and our stakeholders as we try to lead the industry. So the right framework is in place, but the classic cliché that a strategic plan should not sit  on a shelf certainly rings true. It’s an evolving document that will need to adjust as we react to each group to better serve their needs.

Convene content partner Ascent wrote this story.