Leonard Hoops, Incoming PCMA Board Chair: Why 2024 Is a Big Year for PCMA

Leonard Hoops, president and CEO of Visit Indy and chair of PCMA’s 2024 Board of Directors and Trustees, shares his multi-pronged goals for PCMA in the new year.

Author: Casey Gale       

gray/black haired man in jacket and button down

“I don’t know if I’d be the CEO of Visit Indy and would have enjoyed the kind of work life that I’ve led for 12 years if not for PCMA,” said Leonard Hoops, incoming chair of PCMA’s 2024 Board of Directors and Trustees.

Leonard Hoops has been involved with PCMA in one way or another for a significant portion of his career. He’s been an active member in both PCMA’s Northern California and Greater Midwest chapters when he lived and worked in each of those regions. He served as the board’s chapter liaison to Mexico, Southwest, and Pacific, Northern California, Greater Midwest, and New York Area chapters; on the PCMA Foundation’s Grants Committee and PCMA’s Visionary Awards Committee and also chaired PCMA’s Audit and Finance Committees. Hoops has served on PCMA’s Board of Directors and Trustees, first from 2017-2020; currently as secretary/treasurer for the 2022-2023 term; and next, as chair of PCMA’s 2024 Board of Directors and Trustees.

“After I became CEO at Visit Indy, I decided I would try to get on the board, because I’d been going to Convening Leaders and it was my favorite event every year,” he told Convene. Hoops said becoming chair one day wasn’t on his radar. He knew it was a rarity for someone with his career trajectory — who climbed the ranks in marketing and leads a DMO — to become board chair. “It really wasn’t until 2019 that I ever gave any thought of it as a potential opportunity. And I did it because I started thinking to myself around that time that I don’t have that much time left in this industry. PCMA has given so much to me. It has helped me — I believe the relationships I’ve developed and the things I’ve learned over the years, the network I’ve built, I owe a huge amount of debt to PCMA for that. I don’t know if I’d be the CEO of Visit Indy and would have enjoyed the kind of work life that I’ve led for 12 years if not for PCMA. I started thinking to myself, ‘If I’m going to ever do this and give back to PCMA in a way that I feel is anywhere near scratching the surface of what it has given me, I better do it now.’”

Though Hoops had never expected the opportunity to present itself, he’s more than ready to rise to the occasion. He spoke with Convene about his plans for PCMA in 2024 and what opportunities await industry professionals.

What are some of your goals for PCMA in 2024?

I would break it down into three kinds of broader categories and then there are separate things under each of the categories. The first [category] is what I would describe as maintaining — or not screwing up — the momentum. There are a number of things we’ve been doing for several years now, like the exponential growth strategy, that we finally officially launched in 2023. So, 2024 is a really big year for moving it forward. It’s a multi-year process. I’ll have an opportunity to take the next step with what Desiree [Knight, chair of PCMA’s 2023 Board of Directors and Trustees] started. The gist of that exponential growth strategy, which began on my first term when I was serving in 2017 to 2020 and didn’t really take hold until this most recent term, is that while we want to increase membership, we also want — regardless of the number of members — to be able to touch way more of these hundred thousand people that are in this space that are involved in business events.

The second [category] is what I would call finding the “Goldilocks Zone.” …It’s what astronomers describe as the zone [where] a planet has to be [within a range of orbits around a star] to have water. When these planet hunters go looking for life somewhere else in the universe, they talk about the “Goldilocks Zone” because if you have water, there’s a good chance you could have life. The Goldilocks Zone for me applies to two things that PCMA has been doing well but struggling to find the right balance for. One of them has to do with somehow staying engaged with senior event strategists and at the same time also developing the next generation of leaders. …I think finding that balance, that Goldilocks Zone with the senior event strategist and the next generation, is a goal of mine.

The second part of that Goldilocks Zone is growing internationally while [still] supporting and cultivating our core North American base. PCMA has historically been and is still very heavily North American, but I’ve heard folks in North America say, “Boy, you guys are really going after Europe and Asia and South America, and it feels like that’s where all your efforts are going and we’re kind of taken for granted.” And then at the same time, there’s so much to do internationally that the international folks feel that we’re just barely scratching the surface with developing them.

The third [category] is continuing to establish PCMA as the industry leader in our space in areas like AI. We’ve got Project Spark … and are offering tools to our members [and industry to see] how AI can move the industry forward. …Another [area of importance] is sustainability in the industry. Our partnership with the American Geophysical Union [AGU] is a good example of something where I think we’re out in front as an association. And then with DEIB [diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging], one thing I want to add is more emphasis on is the accessibility part. My son has cerebral palsy, he’s going to be 19 this week. …He doesn’t walk and he doesn’t articulate speech. …In general, I think we’re an industry leader in DEIB, but I would like to personally emphasize or bring more light to the accessibility part, as somebody who has been going through that experience.

What are some of the greatest challenges and opportunities meeting professionals face in 2024? 

AI is coming fast and furious in all business sectors, and business events is no different. It has been said that people shouldn’t worry about losing their jobs to AI, but rather to losing their jobs to someone who knows how to take advantage of it. I think PCMA is ahead of the game compared to other industry associations in providing AI tools and resources for our members — and future members — through Project Spark and our incredible network of industry peers and mentors. It will be a challenge for most, but a great opportunity for those who take advantage of what PCMA offers.

What are the greatest challenges and opportunities for CVBs, venues, and other industry partners in 2024? 

The annual conundrum for business event partners is finding the right balance between what your customers want and what your stakeholders want. Customers, of course, try to get as much as possible for as little as possible: event space, hotel rooms, F&B, skilled labor, event services, you name it. Meanwhile, stakeholders want the opposite: maximum revenue, minimum cost. When you’re a CVB/DMO, that’s pretty much your 24/7/365 life. It’s a great challenge and keeps life interesting.

What is one book you think everyone in the events industry should read?

There are so many to choose from, but I’m going to recommend Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Frankly, I’m not much for business books — especially after being force-fed them in grad school — but this book has really influenced how I think and process in a lot of business situations. The primary lesson is that how people are evaluated and/or incentivized is going to materially impact their actions — and understanding and anticipating that helps you make better decisions.

Casey Gale is managing editor of Convene.

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