PCMA events, a living laboratory on participant behavior

How human behavior, education pathways can enhance business events experiences

Designing highly engaging, innovative and memorable face-to-face, open space environments at business events requires a delicate balance of six primary elements, according to a research case study released by PCMA Foundation and Steelcase Event Experiences.

The two organizations unveiled yesterday “5,000 People, 5,000 Personal Journeys” during PCMA’s EduCon event in Los Angeles. The research used 2019 PCMA Convening Leaders as a live case study with researchers observing attendee behavior in open-space environments. The observations yielded a framework of six insights for PCMA that business events strategists might also use to design open-space experiences and opportunities for connecting participants during business events.

“We put ourselves on the line during our own signature event, Convening Leaders, to examine what elements among our open-space environment did or did not resonate with participants so that we could provide a better experience in the future and so the industry could learn from our research results,” said Sherrif Karamat, PCMA president and CEO. “We are always looking for ways to improve our own events and provide resources to support the business events industry.”

Tonya Almond, vice president of knowledge and experience design at PCMA, added: “Personalization during events has become a crucial factor in design thinking strategies to deliver memorable and tailored experiences for participants at face-to-face events. We’ll take these insights and use them to shape our 2020 Convening Leaders experience in San Francisco so our industry can see the full cycle of the research.”

PCMA Foundation partnered with Steelcase Event Experiences, a division of Grand Rapids-based Steelcase Inc., to conduct numerous on-site interviews during 2019 Convening Leaders in Pittsburgh. Steelcase examined a wide range of variables including participant perceptions, behaviours, interactions and the design of the event experience and environment. The result was six key insights to help business events professionals better understand participant needs, experiences and the spaces that support them.

“The business event industry now has a meaningful framework to explore strategies around spatial design,” said John Fuhr, director of sales & business development at Steelcase Event Experiences.

Insight: Supporting diverse needs

Business events professionals should determine where their audience falls on the spectrum of wanting something for everyone vs. one path to success. Offering many options can be valuable when the audience has varying experience levels, but it can also overwhelm and lead to analysis paralysis.

Insight: Enabling meaningful experiences

Here, the spectrum is informational vs. experiential. Some participants may have higher engagement with interactive experiences, while others are more interested in traditional education methods.

Insight: Accommodating connection strategies

“We’ve learnt that connecting does not solely mean meeting people, although many do network that way,” said Kim Condon, event strategist at Steelcase Event Experiences. “Instead, we saw those with more industry experience connecting with their senior-level peers to learn, discuss new ideas, and be inspired, using this event as their rare opportunity to be in the same place, at the same time.”

Insight: Enabling learning strategies

The challenge here is striking the right blend of formal learning with informal learning in addition to aspirational content with business practice content. Some participants may engage with inspirational and motivational education content while others are looking for a more tangible ROI in ideas they can take back to their workplace.

Insight: Supporting participant wellbeing

Business events professionals must determine where their event falls on the spectrum between creating a supportive environment for each individual or for the audience as a whole.

Insight: Designing for a journey

Here, the spectrum is designing by default — utilizing pre-existing gathering spaces — or designing for a specific journey and experience by creating work, networking or waiting lounges.

“This research is important because it is based on the perspective of the user,” said Lauren Bachynski, applied research consultant at Steelcase. “It provides insight into their experience of the conference, helping to uncover unmet needs and opportunities for growth as well as identifying key differentiators and ways to further enhance participant engagement in the future.”

To download the full “5,000 people, 5,000 Personal Journeys” report, visit pcma.co/5000journeys.

For media queries from the Americas and EMEA and requests for interviews with Sherrif Karamat, please contact:
Meghan Risch

For Asia Pacific media inquiries, please contact:
Jessica Kauffman, Senior Account Manager, ZADRO

About PCMA

PCMA believes that business events can economically and socially transform communities, enterprises and individuals. As the world’s largest platform for business events strategists and their business partners, PCMA’s success is driven by a commitment to providing provocative executive-level education, face-to-face networking and business intelligence to its membership of 8,400 professionals and students and global audience of over 100,000 business event stakeholders.

Through its Ascent leadership initiative to promote inclusion and diversity across the business events industry and beyond, PCMA seeks to empower those challenged by gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or disabilities to find success.

Headquartered in Chicago, PCMA has 17 chapters throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico with members in more than 40 countries and regional offices in Northern Ireland, Australia and Singapore. Visit us at pcma.org or on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.