The leaders, ironically enough, of Convening Leaders 2014, the Professional Convention Management Association’s Annual Conference, with a more than 3,700 people (a record!) gathering at the Hynes Convention Center and Sheraton Boston this week, are all about taking risks.
So says Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP, senior vice president, education & meetings, at PCMA. “We simply don’t know if it will always work,” she said during a “behind the scenes” walkthrough for media on Sunday, the day before the meeting opened. She showcased a general session room that has no “back of the house,” (all presenters are coming forward from “the house”); Learning Lounge 2.0, powered by Freeman, which aims to give every attendee an environment that comfortably fits his or her learning style; and even luncheons have been designed for the space, meaning no talking heads and even one day of box lunches where attendees can choose their entrée and diet restrictions.
But experimentation is the point, according to Peacy, who says the convention and meeting managers who attend Convening Leaders are there to learn and experience new ideas, so that they are able “to take pieces away to use in their own meetings... There is no one size fits all. This is a great teaching moment.”
Peacy and her colleagues from Freeman, which provides integrated marketing solutions for live engagements, have been partnering on the meeting for nine years, said Dan Traver, senior national sales manager, Freeman, based in Chicago, where PCMA is headquartered.
“Eighteen months ago we sat down with Freeman, here in Boston, and we came up with the Revolution/Evolution concept,” said Peacy. The theme captures Boston as the site of the start of the Revolutionary War, and a revolution “in thinking about the way we do business.” The “evolution” part comes in, she says, “to frame the discussion not just about where we’ve come from, but where we’re going.”
Freeman and FreemanXP, the company’s creative services agency, created the centerpiece of the show, Learning Lounge, 2.0. "The goal was to design an experience that encourages attendees to ‘lean forward’ and interact with subject matter experts as well as their industry peers,” said Paolo Zeppa, senior vice president, strategy, Freeman XP.
The Learning Lounge has four components:
• The Playroom, showcasing the latest insights from best practices to problem solving
• Illumination Zone, where attendees hear more from keynote speakers and get a recap of hot topics each day
• Connections Corner, an opportunity to meet one-on-one with experts and service providers to continue the session conversations or pick up best practices
• The first PCMA Hackathon, sponsored by QuickMobile, which bring together 25 IT students and web developers from the Boston area. Participants are grouped into teams and challenged to create the next big mobile app “that can revolutionize connectivity.” The winners will be announced Wednesday, with the first-place team earning $3,500, second-place $1,000, and third-place $500.