The Importance of Stepping Outside the Session Room

Author: David McMillin       

When conference organizers outline the agenda for attendees, the first priority typically is education. It’s a fair assumption that most attendees are looking to earn education credits that can fuel results in their offices back home. However, racking up clock hours and CEUs isn’t the only rewarding activity that should be on the program. At the 2017 PCMA Global Professionals Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 28–31, lessons extended well beyond business and marketing strategies for success in the Asia-Pacific region. “Throughout the entire program, we saw so much of Bangkok,” Katie Yandell, director of strategic alliances at PCMA, told me after arriving home. “The Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau aimed to weave in a range of opportunities to get to know the Thai culture.”

With 25 global planners and 15 senior-level suppliers in attendance, the itinerary traded typical top attractions for something that every savvy traveler wants: the chance to feel like a local instead of a tourist. On Tuesday, Aug. 29, a CSR program introduced the audience to one of the biggest issues in Thailand: elephant conservation. “Elephants are in serious danger in Thailand,” Yandell said. “The population has dwindled to just a few thousand in the country.”

So, conference attendees joined the Elephant Parade. No, it wasn’t a procession of the actual massive mammals. Instead, attendees painted ceramic elephants, and on the final night of the conference, they purchased some of the art in an auction. “The experience combined the fun of an art project with the serious problem facing Thailand’s animal population,” Yandell said.

Worth the Drive

Joining the parade was easy, but the final day of the program involved some extra steps — literally. Attendees traveled an hour to Sampran Riverside, a family-run, eco-cultural location with 70 acres of organic farmland. “Typically, we don’t like to travel far from the host venue unless it’s really, really worth it,” Yandell said. “And Sampran Riverside was absolutely worth every mile. I think it was a highlight of the trip for many attendees.”

Attendees didn’t just explore the farmland. They left their mark when they learned how to plant rice paddies, which is no easy task. Attendees wound up barefoot in a river with bushels of rice plants. “It was eye-opening,” Yandell said. “I have a new appreciation for rice and a real feel for the farmers. It was a true glimpse into one of the most important pieces of Thailand.”

Stay tuned to for more insights into the culture and customs in Thailand and across the entire APAC region, with continuing coverage of the lessons learned at the PCMA Global Professionals Conference.

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