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MacMillan Moves Up at PCMA

The industry veteran takes on the role of COO, fighting for business events’ recovery.

Bruce MacMillan has been promoted to chief operating officer at the Professional Convention Management Association. He joined the organization a year ago as chief marketing officer and is credited with the design of the association’s pandemic recovery plan, known as Recovery Discovery.

Earlier in his career, MacMillan served as president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International for more than five years. That included the years of the 2008-2009 recession, another challenging time for the industry.

In addition to MacMillan’s new role, PCMA president and CEO Sherrif Karamat, CAE, announced that Robert Haas has been promoted to chief technology officer, reporting to MacMillan; and that Karen Bolinger, managing director of PCMA’s APAC operations and a soon-to-be-announced leader of PCMA’s EMEA operations, will now report directly to him.

We asked MacMillan about the industry’s recovery, reskilling, virtual meetings, and more

MeetingsNet: Reskilling is one piece of PCMA’s Recovery Discovery initiative. What skills are most in demand to help meeting professionals recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic? 
MacMillan: It goes without saying that digital-event design and management skills are in very high
demand by brands and organizations, which is why our Digital Event Strategist certification has been so successful. In the immediate term, understanding the imperative around participant safety and hygiene is an essential. As digitization increases, skills like digital marketing, user experience design, and data analysis will complement a business event professional’s existing skills.

MeetingsNet: The Recovery Discovery initiative also focuses on event experimentation. Can you provide an example of that?
MacMillan: What has been really exciting to see is the speed and breadth of redesign by groups such as the United Fresh Produce Marketing Association, which turned its annual convention into a year-round 24/7 online event. That is seriously looking outside the box.

MeetingsNet: Meeting professionals have fearlessly pivoted to virtual events over the last five months. What lessons might this experience in online education teach them that they can bring back to the face-to-face environment?
MacMillan: I read somewhere that Covid-induced digital development had advanced the online user experience by five years in the course of five months. I believe what many are discovering through these experiences is that meetings are not either face-to-face or digital but are in fact omnichannel and that the digital channel enriches the face-to-face experience. 

MeetingsNet: What’s the most memorable conference you’ve ever attended from the perspective of conference design, and what made it stand out?
MacMillan: That’s a tough one. I once attended the TechCrunch conference in San Francisco, which brings together start-ups and venture capitalists. The raw energy of pitching and deal-making was unbelievable. That was where I really saw the importance of “white space” at an event. You could even say that white space was the event. 

MeetingsNet: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
MacMillan: I am a huge Marvel film and comic geek. “With great power comes great responsibility.”

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