How a Pandemic Problem Helped Innovate a GMID Program

After a year off due to COVID-19 in 2020, PCMA’s Capital Chapter switched its Hill Day advocacy event last year to virtual appointments with lawmakers and invited other PCMA chapters to lead the meet-ups — thereby increasing the number of participants and appointments. The chapter is building on that momentum for this year’s virtual Hill Day.

Author: Curt Wagner       

lawmakers and PCMA member meet

Members of PCMA’s Capital Chapter meet with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. in 2019, the last year the chapter’s Hill Day was conducted in person.

Members of several PCMA chapters will begin meeting virtually with government officials March 21 as part of the PCMA Capital Chapter’s Hill Day — the second year in a row the advocacy program has been done virtually after a year off in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Hill Day — in which Capital Chapter members used to meet with politicians or their representatives in person on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to advocate for bills supporting the meetings industry prior to the pandemic — is held in conjunction with Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID). Taking place April 7 this year, GMID was created to educate, advocate, and rally around the meetings industry.

The Capital Chapter’s committee is busy identifying which bills to advocate, their sponsors and supporters, and reaching out to members from other PCMA chapters to help in the advocacy efforts, said Marcus Eng, Capital Chapter president.

Those PCMA members will meet virtually with senators, representatives, and their staff members over a three-week period through April 8. Virginia-based marketing and engagement agency MCI USA will hold training sessions with the volunteers before their virtual appointments on how to create a compelling case for the issues that are being advocated.

The idea to open up the Capital Chapter’s Hill Day to PCMA members from other chapters came in 2021 when the event went virtual. Organizers planned to hold the meetings during the week of GMID but faced scheduling conflicts with busy lawmakers. Undaunted, the chapter expanded the outreach program by including members of PCMA chapters from all over the country and stretching the period for appointments to two weeks.

Those changes brought even more representation to Capitol Hill, Eng said. “We found that it’s definitely easier to get an appointment with one of the lawmakers if you’re an actual constituent,” Eng told Convene. Having other PCMA chapters involved has helped to increase the program’s reach, he said, and to “be inclusive with the other chapters to have a larger voice in representing the industry.”

The program tweaks worked, with increases in the number of participants and appointments. In 2021, 112 PCMA members from all over the U.S. met with lawmakers or their representatives during 27 virtual appointments. In 2019 when Hill Day took place in person on Capitol Hill, 46 participants attended 18 advocacy appointments with officials or their staff members. Robin Troutman, who is part of the Capital Chapter’s Government Relations Committee, said the committee already is on track to have the same number or more virtual appointments than last year.

Once COVID-19 restrictions are eased and it is safe to meet in person, Hill Day may go back to being an in-person event, Eng said, but he believes the virtual option will stick around. “It’s obviously easier on the congressional staff” to meet virtually due to time constraints, he said. “In-person advocacy can be more effective depending on what you’re doing. But it’s nice to have the virtual option that extends our reach and participation.”

In the Capital Chapter’s virtual GMID white paper outlining the 2021 efforts, Molly Witges, PCMA Greater Midwest Chapter president, said she was pleased other chapters were able to get involved. “Virtual participation allowed us to help contribute and took it out of a D.C.-focused effort to a national life,” she said. “It’s all of our job to advocate for our industry that we love, especially now!”

The Capital Chapter has planned an educational session from 3 p.m.–6 p.m. April 7 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center that can be attended in person or virtually. Registration closes March 30; register at the Capital Chapter web page. If you wish to participate in advocacy efforts, contact your local chapter or email the Capital Chapter.

Curt Wagner is digital editor at Convene.