Meeting Mentor Magazine

June 2024

PCMA Brings Global Themes to Austin Meeting

Austin, Texas, rolled out the red carpet in January for more than 4,000 attendees at Convening Leaders, the flagship event of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). Film star and Austin resident Matthew McConaughey delivered an opening address, and country music icon Willie Nelson, a founding father of Austin’s legendary music scene, performed a final-night concert.

While local flavor predominated on the entertainment front, global themes took center stage during the conference. Keynote speaker Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, author of 19 books, and advisor on energy issues to several heads of state, delivered a sobering assessment of what’s at stake with climate change if current economic and energy models continue. He described how a Third Industrial Revolution, powered by renewable energy and managed by advanced Internet technology, is needed to avert “what may well be our extinction.”

In a press conference, PCMA leadership detailed its vision for the association. With more than 6,800 members—an all-time high—the association is moving to expand its global reach. It has established two regional advisory boards—one in Europe and the other in Asia-Pacific.

The boards, consisting of leading members of the business events community in these regions, will help PCMA develop a presence in key regions as the organization seeks to grow beyond its North American core business, explained Deborah Sexton, FASAE, PCMA’s CEO and president. The regional advisory boards will act as “sounding boards” for the business events industry in these markets. This feedback will help guide PCMA with its rollout of education products and services in these areas, Sexton explained.

Outgoing Chair William Reed, FASAE, CMP, senior director of meetings and community engagement at the American Society of Hematology, said that PCMA is complementing its membership model with a subscription model, and forming alliances with other organizations to reach out to professionals in the global community. “We need to recognize that 50 percent of our attendance now comes from outside the U.S. We need to tap into resources that are already in these regions and leverage that expertise.”

Technology Plays Big Role
This year’s Convening Leaders featured more live stream programming than ever before. PCMA’s Digital Experience Institute (DEI), formerly the Virtual Edge Institute, live streamed from the main stage, during the Thought Leaders program, and from some of the most talked about break-outs. DES also featured exclusive online programming from its onsite Mash-up Studio, including live interviews and tech demo spotlights. Live streaming channels were expanded to include Facebook Live and YouTube to bring in even larger audiences. The three-day live stream program drew a remote attendance of 1,455 people—a 6 percent increase over last year, according to DEI.

Convening Leaders always provides great opportunities for attendees to explore new event technologies. This year there was a big focus on virtual reality (VR) as the brand experience company Freeman, PCMA’s event partner, demonstrated its new suite of VR products and services. “We think we can change the industry with this platform, showing that VR is not a game or a parlor trick but a real way to provide business solutions,” Wilson Tang, Freeman’s vice president, Digital Experience, said at a press conference during the conference.

The conference’s Tech Central demo area had several new additions, including the Disruptive Tech Zone. Attendees could take part in drone races and watch tech startups pitch their products “Shark Tank”–style. Also new this year was the Brain Dates program. Before the event, attendees could make both offers and requests for knowledge on specific topics of interest and schedule on-site meet-ups.

Doing Good
PCMA officially launched Giving Good, a new online resource for event organizers that allows them to find and book community projects. The tool provides snapshot information for community-impact projects in 30 U.S. destinations. Features include the ability to connect with other event organizers, get additional information from destination service departments, and reach out to the community program directly for further information. For more information, visit

The PCMA Foundation reported record fundraising in 2016, offering 73 scholarships (20 more than in 2015). The foundation also raised $35,000 in a Harley-Davidson raffle at the conference in Austin.  The annual Party With a Purpose, held the second night of the Austin conference, raised $25,000 for the local charity Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.  —Regina McGee


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