Why aren't meeting industry association meetings the best of the best?

I know, I've whined about this one before, but really, why aren't meetings put on by the meeting industry associations not the ultimate in showcasing the best adult education techniques, the hottest in F&B trends, the coolest technology, etc.? I didn't attend Meetings Professionals International this week, but I've heard from several people that some of the educational sessions were so-so, the food and beverage extremely uneven from meal to meal, and the entertainment, well, let's just say the gray naked ladies (supposed to be statues come to life at a reception) weren't a big hit with most of those I've been hearing from. Not to mention the giraffes at the reception, which really upset some of the more animal-loving attendees. About keynoter Amanda Gore, some loved her, some hated her, according to the feedback I've heard.

While of course you never can please everyoneand planners are notoriously criticalI would rather hear people raving about the way the room set really enhanced the breakouts, the interactive formats that left them begging for more, and the educational takeaways they plan to put into use this week.

Which is why I at first got pretty excited about PCMA's new Meeting Xperiments (though, note to PCMA, we're all over that "X" thing by now--it no longer looks cool, just sort of tired. And it probably got a lot of your e-mails bounced back now that most spam-detectors look at anything X with a jaunticed eye). The idea is to ask potential attendees for cutting-edge ideas they've always wanted to try but couldn't in their own meetings. Those that make the cut will be incorporated into PCMA's 2006 Annual Meeting in January, attendees can evaluate them as they go, and PCMA will share the results afterward.

OK, but how does that work in reality? Will speakers be asked to use room sets that may not work for their session, or technology that doesn't jive with their topic?

Seems to me this is a bit backwards--PCMA should be coming up with the latest and greatest, planning carefully from every aspect to make sure it's the best for each specific session, using the latest technical gizmo with people who know how to use it effectively (there's an art to using something as simple as an audience response system), etc., etc. I realize that it's a good way to involve the membership in the meeting, and to create anticipation for what may be a great success or a great disasteror more likely, something in between. Maybe it's not too late for PCMA to really work to implement the ideas people send in effectively, but if it's done in a haphazard "Xperimental" way, it'll only further convince people that it's better to stick with the tried-and-true than try something new. I know whereof I speak, having done it myself recently.

PCMA, if I'm missing something, please let me know.

Update: At our editorial meeting today, a colleague who attended MPI said it was, and I quote, "the best MPI conference ever." Despite the griping I've heard about f&b, etc., she said it had an amazing spirit to it, one that she hadn't felt in a long time at any industry meeting. So they must have done a lot of something right, because she's been going to these things for eons and is not all that easy to impress. And she absolutely adored Amanda Gore.

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