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, APAC, EMEA, and requests for interviews with Sherrif Karamat, please contact: Meghan Risch, PCMA Chief of Staff, Vice President, Corporate Communications

About PCMA

PCMA, PCMA Foundation and CEMA educate, inspire, and listen, creating meaningful experiences where passion, purpose and commerce come together. We are the world’s largest community for Business Events Strategists, providing senior-level education, networking, and market intelligence for the global business events industry. Our mission is to drive social and economic progress through business events. Headquartered in Chicago, IL PCMA has 17 North American Chapters, regional communities in APAC, EMEA and LATAM, and members in 59 countries. The Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA), a PCMA subsidiary, advances strategic event marketing and marketing communications for senior-level event marketers and industry professionals. Visit us at pcma.org.

About PCMA Foundation

The role of the Foundation of PCMA is to support the mission of PCMA through fundraising and grant-giving focused on scholarships, education and research that will advance the business events industry. Annually the Foundation funds over $700K in impact, and since 1985 has funded over 2,500 scholarships, 100 research studies and education programs, and $2.7M in charitable giving.

About CEMA

The Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) is the eminent community for senior event executives, association peers and industry partners and is an integral component of the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) brand collective. CEMA promotes professional networking opportunities, facilitates peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and drives industry standards. Through strong relationships with strategic partners, CEMA fosters both finding innovative solutions to business issues and continuous focus on members’ career growth. For more information, please visit http://www.cemaonline.com.

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