Members: A Conversation with PCMA’s Leaders, March 19, 2021

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Q: What is the rationale behind having one governing body and how will this impact chapters?

To achieve the vision and purpose laid out in our Business Plan, we can no longer act like a traditional association. The Board of the Future working group composed of PCMA and Foundation Board members has been looking at defining “the Board of the future” over the last three years with the objective to move beyond a traditional association governance model. One governing body for both organizations will increase agility and alignment between PCMA and the Foundation. The members are the benefactors of this change.

The chapters will benefit from improved and streamlined communication from one HQ Board and accelerated decision-making. The new governing body will collaborate with PCMA committees, chapters and regions.

Q: How does this impact the leadership and volunteer nominating process?

To become a board member, the nominating process has also been improved in that it is less prescriptive and allows for greater volunteer engagement in that only the nominating Chair (s) are guaranteed a spot on the Committee, all other positions are open. The process timeline however is similar to previous years. There is an annual nomination process and a Nominating Committee who is responsible for reviewing and presenting a Board slate.  The Nominating Committee is assembled by a Governance Committee. Directors and Trustees elected this year by the Nominating Committee will begin their terms immediately after Convening Leaders in 2022.  

The PCMA HQ volunteer program remains unchanged. Members can apply to volunteer on various projects throughout the year. Available projects are posted periodically on

Q: How will the new Nominating Committee be selected?

Applications were open to the membership for 9 (nine) open positions on the Nominating Committee. The 2021 committee is co-chaired by the past Chairs of the PCMA and Foundation Boards. Candidates are being assessed by the Governance Committee, chaired by Desiree Knight, a current Director on the PCMA Board. The Governance Committee will select and confirm the members of the Nominating Committee by the end of April. 

Q: Does this mean there will be fewer volunteer leadership positions for the organization? Will it reduce my chances of serving on the headquarters Board?

There is no prescribed reduction in total volunteer leadership positions for PCMA and the Foundation. The creation of one governing body for both organizations requires a combination of the existing Board of Directors and Board of Trustees that will reduce their current combined size of up to 41 positions to the new governing body size of up to 21 positions over the next two years.

With the creation of a standing Governance Committee, there will be a leadership recruitment strategy developed that ensures PCMA’s leadership pipeline is dedicated to inclusivity and diverse perspectives/competencies that reach beyond our existing core audiences.

PCMA has also established three advisory groups – CEMA, EMEA and APAC creating new opportunities for volunteering. 

Q: Were there any legalities that had to be considered for this change? Will the chapters need to change their Bylaws to align with HQ?

Both Boards passed bylaw changes as proposed by the Board of the Future Working Group. Legal counsel and best practice governance guidance was followed throughout the process. Updated bylaws go into effect on January 1, 2022. 

Chapters do not need to change their Bylaws to align with HQ as a result of this governance change.

Q: Will this governance change lead to other changes such as membership categories, chapter structure, etc?

No membership category or chapter structure changes will result from these changes, though the organization will always continue to assess membership models to ensure relevancy to our community. These changes are focused on the creation of one leadership body for both organizations in order to increase agility and alignment between PCMA and the Foundation. Members will benefit from improved and streamlined communication from one HQ Board and accelerated decision-making. 

G: How will we ensure that there is a focus on fundraising to continue the work of the Foundation?

These changes do not result in any changes to the Foundation’s committee/volunteer structure, business operations or management resources. The Foundation’s business strategies and performance measures will continue to evolve in accordance with member needs with oversight by the new governing body. 

Q: Who is on the Board of the Future Working Group?

A cross-section of Board members with previous experience in governance serves on the Board of the Future Working Group:

  • Oscar Cerezales (Working Group Chair), Global EVP, MCI Group
  • Kerry Crockett, Executive Director, Insurance Accounting & Systems Association (IASA)
  • Tony Lorenz, Founder, HeadSail LLC
  • Kirsten Olean, Director of Meetings, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
  • Kitty Ratcliffe, President, Explore St. Louis
  • Valerie Sumner, Principal, VRS Meetings and Events, Inc.


Q: What trends are you seeing related to membership and how will this impact the Chapter dues rebate? What do you mean by new membership models?

The pandemic has impacted every category of our membership and we have recently seen declines in retention in all categories. The supplier category has seen the deepest decline. Of the members who have not renewed since October 2020, 32% said they plan on renewing when the industry recovers.

We’ve been doing considerable research on the evolution of membership models lately – particularly with Gen Z/millennials – to understand how our members would like to engage with PCMA, particularly in a post-pandemic world. We have nothing to report but are committed to continuing this exploration with our chapter and Board leaders as the recovery takes shape.

Q: Do you see the role of the Chapters changing as the organization evolves?

Chapters are an essential component of the PCMA experience.

As we all experienced over the last year, local engagement builds community and human connections better than any digital event platform today or in the future. It was our chapters who delivered hope and fostered resilience at a local level to keep our PCMA family together during the depths of the pandemic. They raised money. They volunteered. They checked in with their members and partners. They were some of the unsung heroes of PCMA.

Q: How will HQ and the Foundation continue to support the chapters?

Nothing about this governance change or anything in the Board of the Future discussions will lead to any reductions or changes in the way both organizations support our chapters.

In the wake of the pandemic, we believe that chapter engagement/participation might actually surge creating new opportunities for exploration by everyone.


Q: How was PCMA able to realize record 2020 financial results? Was it done on the backs of employee lay-offs and paycuts?

Our 2020 financial success was driven primarily by outstanding financial performance early in the year at Convening Leaders and Destination Showcase and also because of the success of our DES learning products. 

Like every organization in the business events space, we did have to make some painful layoffs. That was a dark day for us. Since then we’ve been slowly bringing new talent into the organization to continue the development of products and the delivery of services that our research and community conversations with members and partners say they need to be successful in a post-COVID world.

Q: How did the Foundation perform in terms of fundraising? Can we continue to expect research and financial support from the Foundation this year?

In 2020 the Foundation raised $492K which was significantly below what we planned as a result of pandemic-induced business disruption. No surprise. At the same time, the Foundation remained committed to supporting our members despite the obvious challenges by awarding over $900K in grants, scholarships, and charitable contributions for the business events industry.

Our commitment to the Foundation’s purpose of empowering individuals and advancing innovation that fuels the future of business events is unwavering. With recovery In 2021, we plan to ramp-up our signature fundraising activities such as Visionary Awards and Partnership Summit as well as continue the Accelerating Reskilling donation campaign.

Q: How successful has the Digital Event Strategist (DES) course been for PCMA? 

There are currently over 2,000 graduates of the DES course. The course was completely redesigned in the Fall of 2020 and most recently, a new Introduction to Digital Events course was added in February 2021. It continues to be the most well-respected designation in digital events. 

Q: How did Convening Leaders 2021 perform?

CL21 was a remarkable success despite the challenges of a global pandemic that shut down or significantly restricted F2F gatherings all over the world. We had almost 4000 participants including 300 on-site at our Global Broadcast Centre at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

The feedback from our participants was stellar. In Singapore 92% said they were highly satisfied with their experience and learning takeaways. For those participating with our Official Network Partners and digitally via our JUNO platform, 88% reported that they were highly satisfied/satisfied with their experience and learning outcomes.

This was the first omnichannel event experience for us, our partners and for many of our participants. We will continue to share insights and enhance future PCMA omnichannel event experiences.


Q: How do you plan to engage past leadership going forward? How can we play a role in the future of the organization?

The PCMA HQ volunteer program is a great way for past leaders to stay involved with the organization, available projects are posted periodically on There are also opportunities to get involved at a local Chapter in North America, or Regional group in EMEA and APAC.  

We invite past Board Chairs to participate in our Always a Leader group where we provide regular updates on the organization and ask for input.

Q: What are PCMA’s plans for 2021 and its future events?

We are committed to meeting safely F2F in 2021.

  • EduCon (July 7 Phoenix): In February we completed a broad survey of member and partner interests for EduCon and the response was overwhelming. You told us you want to gather F2F and digitally. The PCMA Team and our Marriott and Phoenix host partners are completing event design and we will have an announcement on registration soon. At EduCon we are also planning to host a F2F gathering for our chapter leaders to explore opportunities for program development in a post-COVID world..
  • Visionary Awards (August 26 Washington, DC):  We are currently planning this Foundation fundraising event with our partners at Washington Hilton and will launch registration for table and ticket sales soon. The event design will ensure a safe and meaningful experience.
  • Destinations International Partnership Event (Date TBD Washington, DC): Destinations International CEO, Don Welsh and Sherrif announced during Convening Leaders that we are committed to hosting a F2F networking gathering of the business events industry in the DC area sometime this Fall. We are currently working with the DI Team to find an appropriate date and location. We are also committed to continuing to develop our vision of a reimagined business event marketplace event for the DC area in 2022.
  • Partnership Summit (September 9-12, Puerto Rico): This annual VIP invitation-only event will return in the Fall. Approx. 250-300 participants will come together for education, experiential learning and networking.
  • Convening EMEA (October 9 Lausanne, Switzerland): We announced the evolution of the European Influencer Summit during Convening Leaders and our growing EMEA Team is working with our Lausanne and International Olympic Committee partners to complete the planning and provide more details soon.

Q: What has PCMA been doing to contribute to greater social awareness and inclusivity in our industry?

PCMA made social transformation a foundational tenet in our vision…and further entrenched that commitment in our Ascent principles. One of the first things our Leadership commissioned in 2020 upon the death of George Floyd was to set-up a Black Lives Matter Task Force. We are currently activating those Task Force recommendations including:

  • PCMA Groundbreakers: An initiative honoring the accomplishments of black industry professionals who have made a difference in business events and their communities. The Groundbreakers series appears in Convene magazine. Our Inaugural Groundbreakers Award has been presented to Carol Wallace, former President and CEO of the San Diego Convention Center.
  • Belonging, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Information Gathering: PCMA has partnered with a Chicago-based expert and will be shortly engaging all members via a survey so that we can be sure we’re fostering a community where everyone feels heard, understood and included. The survey will be anonymous. We’re looking forward to hearing your feedback on how PCMA can better serve you.
  • To include BDEI content at all of our events to lead by example and strengthen our role at influencing industry change.

Q: Will PCMA be developing its own advocacy arm?

PCMA leadership will be discussing this in July 2021 but we want to be sure we are actually doing something and not just patting each other on the back for all we’ve done, we want more challenging dialogue.

Q: Is PCMA encouraging people to get vaccinated? Will PCMA require vaccinations to attend events? 

We believe part of living in a democratic society is giving people the right to choose. We are encouraging our members and audiences to be vaccinated and will work with our destination and venue host partners as well as local public health officials to ensure the necessary safety precautions are in place for all participants.

Our industry has done so much to contribute to the global recovery of this pandemic — offering up resources like convention centers for mass vaccination sites, creating temporary hospitals when local facilities were completely overwhelmed, volunteering — we’re really proud of the way our industry has stepped up in a difficult time.

PCMA is an Approved CAE Provider & CMP Preferred Vendor.


  • Duration: 01:12:34
  • Date: 01/13/2021

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