During a livestream hosted by PCMA back in 2013, Marie Lou Coupal, CMP, struck up a conversation with other meeting professionals in the group chat. “I noticed in the chatroom of that session that a lot of people were Montréal-based or in the region of Montréal,” Coupal, a business development manager for professional congress management company JPdL International, told Convene. It was just a few months before PCMA’s 2014 Convening Leaders in Boston in January, and Coupal, who is currently president-elect of the PCMA Canada East Chapter, asked the group if they were attending.
When she got a lot of “yes” replies, Coupal threw out the idea of getting a bus so they could all travel to Boston together. “I forget the subject of that livestream session at this point, but I do remember the consequence,” she said. “I thought, I have a job to do to now, I have to make this happen.”
Coupal and event-marketing strategist Rachel Stephan, whom she also met during the livestream, chartered a bus to Boston for 25 meeting professionals. But they decided that they wanted to do more than just get the group from here to there. They wanted to make the travel experience an event experience.
“This was our ultimate brainstorming in how we wanted to get a third dimension of meetings, so it wasn’t static,” Coupal said. So, they branded the travel time — a five-and-a half-hour trip from Montreal to Boston — a “Mobile Meeting Movement.”
Coupal and Stephan organized the travel time by leading the group in ice-breaking games and a discussion about what each person wanted to get out of the conference. “We already knew we wanted people to really approach attending a meeting differently and that takeaways were less traditional,” Coupal said. “I’m a firm believer that learning [doesn’t happen] just when you step into a meeting room.”
During the mobile-learning lab on the way to Convening Leaders, the group explored the agenda, talking about what sessions they should attend in order to make the most of the face-to-face event. “It’s a prompt for being active as opposed to letting it sit and not go anywhere,” Coupal said.
By the time the 25 Canadian meeting professionals arrived in Boston, they were well prepared to make the most of their experience — and their return trip home was equally productive. The group discussed their takeaways, the people they had met, and the opportunities they encountered. “Your meeting doesn’t have an expiring date,” Coupal said. “It’s about how it can live on.”
Reflecting on how her online experience led to a uniquely personal face-to-face event, Coupal underscored the value of giving digital participants the space to converse with each other. “Live webcasts can create really interesting chats for future opportunities,” she said, “and this is one example.”