As the World Changes, so Does the Business Events Industry

We’re not the same as we were before the pandemic — we’re better equipped to handle the challenges we’re facing.

Author: Sherrif Karamat       

Man on giant video screen speaking

“What we are about to witness — some people will say in the next 20 years, I will say in the next two years — is beyond science fiction,” former Goole X CEO Mo Gawdet told the Convening Leaders 2024 audience in January. (Whatever Media Group)

Sherrif Karamat

Sherrif Karamat, CAE,
President & CEO, PCMA and CEMA

When the global business events community gathered at the San Diego Convention Center in January for PCMA Convening Leaders, bringing together 5,000 participants from 47 countries, we broke our previous attendance record, set at our pre-pandemic meeting in 2020 in San Francisco. Among the many lessons the pandemic brought the world is that face-to-face connection is irreplaceable.

But I’m not looking backwards. We’re not the same industry that we were before the pandemic, and we are not living in the same world.

We face many problems. Our society is divided and polarized around the globe. The effects of the climate crisis are on our doorsteps, demanding urgent action. Our workforce is quickly redefining the future of work. And the widespread adoption of generative AI tools, which has many benefits and at the same time can contribute to the spread of disinformation, brings new meaning to the term “disruption.” AI is “the biggest disruption in the history of humanity by a very large margin,” Mo Gawdat, the former CEO of Google [X], told us in San Diego. “What we are about to witness — some people will say in the next 20 years, I will say in the next two years — is beyond science fiction.”

These enormous challenges ask us to expand our thinking and act in new ways. I have great confidence that we are up to the task because we are not the same organization or community that we were when the pandemic began. PCMA’s footprint now spans five continents, a sign not only of an expanding global influence, but an increased capacity to join with others who bring new ideas and approaches to solving problems.

We believe in the power of technology combined with our humanity to bring about positive change. Last year, PCMA, in collaboration with Singapore-based Gevme, funded the start-up Spark, which uses AI tools to automate business events tasks and processes and delivers many other enterprise productivity gains. Spark continues to evolve rapidly — this space is changing so quickly, as has the adoption of AI by our industry. Later this year, we’ll launch the industry’s first climate tech conference (read about how we are making tech-enabled solutions central to our inaugural sustainability conference below).

When we complement our own human intelligence with machine intelligence, Gawdat said at Convening Leaders, “we gain an incredible capacity to gain productivity and to reduce costs.”

But it also means, he added, “that our jobs will change drastically.” Jobs won’t disappear right away, he said, “but someone using AI will take the job of someone who isn’t using AI because they will be able to do the job so much better than someone who’s depending on their own intelligence — smart as they may be.”

A community of 5,000 business event professionals in more than 40 countries is now engaged with Spark, stepping ahead of the revolution that is coming at us and coming at us quickly. Please join us if you haven’t already, by visiting As we navigate a new world, AI truly can be our co-pilot.

Tech for the Planet

We recognize that we have a unique opportunity — and responsibility — to contribute to global efforts to address climate change.

PCMA has partnered with the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and 30 European convention bureaus to launch the industry’s first climate tech summit, which will be held in conjunction with Convening EMEA in Barcelona next October. We’ll explore how new climate technology can not only mitigate the environmental impact of business events but create new efficiencies and opportunities for our industry. Learn more about Convening EMEA 2024 at and stay tuned for more details about the climate tech conference.

Become a Member

Get premium access to provocative executive-level education, face-to-face networking and business intelligence.