Bigger, Bolder, Braver

New initiatives and customizable program at PCMA Convening Leaders 2024 will help shape the event industry’s future.

Author: Curt Wagner       

temp room with see-through walls

The Event Strategy Center consultations take place in branded strategy spaces in the San Diego Convention Center. (Curt Wagner)

The appearance of President Bill Clinton and 67th Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as Tuesday’s Main Stage speakers “will elevate the experience for all attendees” at Convening Leaders 2024, said Howard Givner, PCMA’s senior vice president of knowledge and innovation. While the keynote sessions during CL will speak to all participants, the PCMA education team has focused on ensuring the overall program addresses the individual needs of different participants.

Attendees can choose from more than 50 sessions across three education tracks — career and leadership, experience design, and business event strategy. And they have the option to customize their experience under each track, said Carrie Johnson, DES, PCMA’s senior director, education.

Givner said PCMA is trying “a lot of new things” this week. “We’re really pushing the envelope with content.”

“I believe that for each person, everything at the event doesn’t have to be game-changing,” he said. “But there needs to be one or more real game-changing insights that they get from a session, or connections that they get from a contact or an experience, or just a sense of inspiration and refueling of their professional soul.”

Two of the new initiatives PCMA is introducing at CL24 to reach that goal involve personal coaching for careers and for event strategy. Here’s a look at these two programs:

Event Leadership Institute Career Coaching Center

Attendees at the executive level and early-to-mid-career level are able to sign up for the Career Coaching Center, which is powered by freelance marketplace Soundings Connect.

“One of the guiding principles for our event and learning products group is to be the catalyst that helps event professionals get to the next stage in their career — wherever they are,” said Givner, who founded the Event Leadership Institute, which PCMA acquired in 2023. “If they’re starting out, this helps them grow to the next level. If they’re mid-level, this helps them grow to a senior level. If they’re a senior, this helps them elevate their game even further.”

The 30-minute coaching sessions will be with one of 10 to 12 career coaches from Soundings Connect and volunteer mentors vetted by PCMA from various areas of the industry. The Career Coaching Center plans to offer 150 total appointment slots this week in semi-private areas. The Sunday spaces were only available for participants of the PCMA Career Fair, another new program that connected students and professionals entering the business events industry with employers.

If space allows, attendees still can sign up on the event platform, where they also may choose one of several topics that align with their personal and professional development goals, including transformational leadership, team building and agile staffing, personal branding, and behavioral interviewing.

Event Strategy Center

This innovative center offers significant ROI for both event organizer attendees seeking advice and sponsoring event agencies ready to provide it. Select event organizers have applied to receive complimentary 30-minute consulting sessions to help them reinvent parts of their annual meeting or conference. Three event agencies — 360 Live Media, MCI Group, and Nth Degree — are each offering 16 consulting sessions, broken up into eight sessions each on Monday and again on Tuesday.

“[Participants] may not remake 100 percent of their event, but certainly they could come up with parts of it or items that they can remake,” Givner said, offering such examples as creating a new pricing strategy or taking a different sponsorship approach.

Other attendees are able to see — but not hear — the consultations in the branded strategy spaces for each of the agencies; they are clear-walled enclosures in high-traffic areas of the convention center. Organizers wanted to “showcase the consultative and ideating process,” Givner said. “It’ll also showcase and promote the role of third parties and agencies in helping to elevate our events — a sector that we really haven’t done much with in the past.”

Givner said PCMA is hoping to replicate these programs at other events, and possibly expand them. With all the fresh ideas at CL24, he said, “we’re going to learn from them and we want people to know we’re trying a lot of different things on their behalf and on behalf of the industry.”

Curt Wagner is digital editor of Convene.

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