5 Takeaways from PCMA Convening Leaders

By Betty Ann Graham, January 25, 2019

At PCMA’s Convening Leaders, Marriott International looked ahead to what will affect events most in 2019. Event professionals all want the same things: attendee retention, to increase new attendee registrations and to stand out among the sea of options. Marriott, which rolls out its MasterMind program through its convention and resorts network in March 2019, thinks it has the solutions planners need. “Mastermind by Marriott was built to inspire, empower and support meeting planners by providing them with a dedicated peer community and access to industry experts,” says Amy Popper, senior marketing manager of Marriott’s Convention & Resort Network. “The first semester will focus on the five event trends recently identified by Marriott and PCMA and encourage planners to stay creative and innovative, even pushing them to try something they haven’t done before.”

Here are highlights from research unveiled at PCMA:

Emotional intelligence

The No. 1 way to attract attendees, whether returning or new, is to tap into their feelings. Adopting a proactive rather than reactive approach toward the attendee experience will make tuning into these needs easier. Using data and analytics to personalize an experience is a method only continuing to rise. One-size-fits-all no longer cuts it. Steve Pemberton, a resources executive at Globoforce and speaker at PCMA, took the audience on an emotional journey through his childhood living in foster care. His touching story about overcoming adversity and applying those learned skills and concepts to the events industry struck a chord to make the most of opportunities.

Orchestrated serendipity

The best ideas come out of an atmosphere that encourages networking and creativity. Attendees’ attention is, now, harder than ever to keep due to technology distractions and remote working ability. Engineered—but not forced—interaction makes the difference in producing an ‘A’ idea versus a ‘C’ idea. By embracing the unexpected, events can create more meaningful participation and leave a lasting impression.

Multipurpose design

Now that you know your audience’s needs, your space must also reflect that and encourage interaction. Space is arguably the most important aspect to making a conference work, so it should be adapted to help attendees get the most out of their experience. The atmosphere’s special design should encourage iteration. PCMA utilized this method by arranging seating in the public gathering spots in an inviting way that allowed room for “Brain Dates” that took place during networking hours, unplanned down time and working meals.

Bigger than oneself

Find your overarching message and stick to it. Use that idea to guide attendees and help reveal what is important to your business. And, in turn, this identification will allow them to purposefully connect with the experience and create significant engagement. This idea was overwhelmingly shown through 20-year-old Harvard student Nadya Okamoto’s passion-filled presentation of her company, PERIOD, bringing to awareness a heightened need for reduction of period poverty throughout the homeless population across the world.

Clear sense of place

The host city should make an impact through embracing its local surroundings and memorable culture. Attendees are then able to connect with the community to increase engagement. Pittsburgh made sure to give all the attendees of PCMA a warm welcome with a video of the “local” familiar faces Chrissy Metz and Chris Sullivan, aka Kate and Toby from “This Is Us.” Visit Pittsburgh also made sure attendees knew how easily walkable the city is for fun outside of the convention center such as visiting historic landmarks like The Andy Warhol Museum and the Heinz History Center—two giants in Pittsburgh history.

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