PCMA Convening Leaders 2017 in Austin was full of surprises but, as usual, but it was no surprise to see the PCMA team pull off a huge event with tremendous class, ingenuity and a big dollop of fun. The city of Austin did them proud too, offering an apparently effortless and seamless ‘embrace’ to attendees.
This great combination – great city, great team - produced a spirited, energetic and positive start to the year. One that reminded the IMEX team in particular (and 10 of us made the trip to Austin) how much we love the meetings and events industry and how proud we are to serve it.
Now that we’re back in the swing of the regular 9-5 in Brighton, UK, (as other event planners know…there’s no such thing as a regular 9-5 in this job), we thought we’d share what we learned at PCMA Convening Leaders 2017 in the hope that our insights might be your inspirations.
Carina Bauer, CEO
1. Inspired by: Rachel Botsman, Opening Session
The real change in the way we work and live is not coming from changes in tech, but in changes in how we approach the concept of trust. This is interesting from a ‘whole-life’ perspective; but for IMEX I think the concept of allowing people to interact with each other through our systems (appointments/app) in a more meaningful way, and allowing them a degree of choice and control over their schedule could help us drive better engagement. We already deliver some of this, but I think it will help focus our development better.
2. Inspired by: The whole of PCMA Convening Leaders 2017
The importance of music, art and fun in a convention. This was clear to me throughout the city and the whole event. Well done PCMA and Austin! You’ve certainly got me thinking in new ways about IMEX.
Nalan Emre, Organising Director
1. Inspired by: Sensory Analytics session – Delivering Experience Focused Events
The importance of integrating entertainment and education…everything from deciding which fun elements to bring into education and how to ask targeted questions in the registration form. If we understand these preferences it means we can customise learning experiences based on the collected data. We’re now customising our marketing campaigns, the next step would be to offer custom onsite experiences which combine education and entertainment.
2. Inspired by: Crisis Experience – How ready are you?
In this session, about a real-life event crisis, the audience had to make critical decisions and deal with the consequences. After attending this session I came to the conclusion that our crisis management plan needs to be a lot more detailed. We already have a very comprehensive plan because of various issues, such as volcanoes and train strikes, that we've had to deal with in the past and so it has already been reworked it several times!
I realise from this session that not only do we need more detail in our plan, we need to run dummy scenarios and walk the team through a ‘test crisis scenario’ so that everyone knows their role and responsibility. We also need to explain our communication strategy, internally as well as externally.
3. Inspired by: Creative session set-ups. There were couches in front of the stage followed by theatre style seating, high cocktail tables and chairs. At the back of the room there were some high tables that had charging built-in. Depending on where you sat your experience of the session varied. It’s important to give people more choice and that’s something we’re already working on for both our shows.
4. Inspired by: The closing session. This really hit home for me. Sustainability and CSR aren’t just trends. We have to act as a human race to save our planet - NOW! At IMEX we’re already working with MeetGreen and our suppliers to help our participants make more conscious decisions around the show. In some cases we make the choice for them. For example, at IMEX in Frankfurt we only offer ‘green’ energy. We’ve now removed the option to order power from nuclear plants.
Lottie Elson, Campaign Marketing Manager
Inspired by: Scott Belsky - Making Ideas Happen
This was one of my favourite sessions. I took away the idea that personal and team organisation is a huge source of competitive edge - and the friend of making ideas happen! Because of that, I’ve decided to share my ideas liberally, even when they’re not fully formed. I now realise we can’t do it all alone!
Top Tips: Plan ahead. This really paid off for me. I made appointments with new and existing contacts, and scheduled in as much networking time as possible. I was not afraid to be the first to say “hi”, this made my network wider and stronger. My follow-up emails were really positively received – I even have an invite to a Hollywood Studio!
Another tip is to write notes sparingly so they are useable. I like to mark points ‘Action’, ‘Look Up’ and ‘Idea’. The trick is to act quickly once you get back and before your normal routine takes over.
Richard Allchild, CMP, Sales Manager
Inspired by: Rachel Botsman – Opening General Session
The most important thing when creating an app or a sharing economy service is building trust and understanding what that means to your audience. You can apply this to everything you do. Trust is the most important component to online and real life engagement.
Top Tip: If you’re going to Austin or an American city with a taste for BBQs, take a spare suit or a clothes freshen-up spray. Otherwise you’ll take the smoky BBQ smell to all your meetings...for days afterwards.
Kit Watts, Strategic Communications Officer
1. Inspired by: C- Suite Executives Strategy Discussion
At any one time, the C-Suite is focused on just three things – making money, saving money or mitigating risk. This was a really informative session, which I attended as a way to understand the pressures and challenges facing in-house (corporate) event planners. It sounds so simple but, of course, the implications for meetings and event planners or marketers are vast.
Alongside this 3-pointer was a handy 6-pointer which relates to how to get C-suite buy-in for a new event. It boils down to ‘walking in their shoes’, which means obsessing over the same issues they’re obsessing over:
- Is it relevant?
- Will it enhance the company’s reputation?
- Will it help us reach a bigger audience?
- Will it help us retain an existing audience?
- What’s the ROI?
- Will it increase revenue?
2. Inspired by: C-Suite Thought Leader Predictions
There’s always a law of ‘unintended consequences’. For example, where we all thought technology was going to reduce demand for meetings and events, the opposite has turned out to be true. Trying to predict the future, especially in a super-fast paced world is incredibly tricky…hence the law of unintended consequences – the surprise element!
Phrases such as ‘meetings with a purpose’, ‘rich, immersive experiences’ and ‘collaborative content’ were liberally peppered throughout this panel’s conversation. That was a good feeling because those are the very elements dominating our thoughts and plans at IMEX in 2017.
(ANONYMOUS) Top Tip: And finally, regardless of where you’re going or who you’re going with, make sure you pack cold and flu tablets, cough sweets and headache pills. And never go to a meeting without something warm you can throw on in case the heating breaks down!
Photos by @IMEXCarina