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PCMA's Convening Leaders 2021 was held at Caesars Forum as part of a multi-hub hybrid event. The January 2022 event will use that facility as its lone in-person site, and with some different room set-ups from last year, shown here.

In a Difficult Moment, Meetings-Industry Event Set to Go Forward

With demand for its in-person experience holding strong despite a new wave of Covid infections, Professional Convention Management Association gathers in Las Vegas early next week using several logistical changes.

Over the past 60 days, the meetings and events industry has been whipsawed by the Covid pandemic. First, early November saw the IMEX America show in Las Vegas become the first event in the U.S. to welcome back international visitors, and the absence of health-security issues during the event appeared to be a harbinger for the return of in-person meetings nationwide.

But fast-forward to this week in Las Vegas, and word has come from the Consumer Technology Association that its massive CES Show originally set to happen January 5 to 8 would be shortened by a day due to the rapid spread of the omicron variant of Covid.

And the first sizable event to come to Vegas after CES just happens to be one of the meeting and event industry’s biggest shows: Professional Convention Management Association’s Convening Leaders conference, set for January 9 to 12 at Caesars Forum.

Even with a sudden and strong headwind to contend with, PCMA has no plans to cancel or abbreviate the event. Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO of PCMA, told MeetingsNet on January 3 that demand for the in-person portion of the hybrid event remains strong; just 21 attendees out of the more than 3,000 who are expected in Vegas changed their registration from in-person to virtual since December 15, he noted.

As for international attendees, however, the number who will be in person is expected to drop from 25 percent of all attendees in previous years to about 10 percent this year. “The difficulty for international attendees has been less about flight cancellations [due to Covid-related airline-staff shortages] and more about the availability of Covid tests travelers must take prior to their flights,” Karamat said.

Screen Shot 2022-01-04 at 2.04.26 PM.pngConsidering all the present circumstances, “we're not going to shorten the program,” said Karamat (pictured here). “We believe that business events must evolve because we play a critical role in all other industries. It is an incredible responsibility but it's one that we have to bear. And it means that we have to meet safely, and we are intending to keep people as safe as possible.” A vaccine mandate is in effect for the show, as was the case with PCMA’s EduCon event that took place in Phoenix in July.

One event element that will be different than how November’s IMEX America was conducted is that masks will be mandatory in all PCMA meeting spaces. While Las Vegas had an indoor mask mandate for public places when IMEX America’s happened, the show was able to get an exemption within its meeting spaces because of its vaccine mandate for all participants. PCMA did not seek such an exemption.

“Each of us must take the responsibility of ensuring that we're vaccinated and wearing our masks,” Karamat said. “Keeping ourselves safe demonstrates that we can keep building back our event businesses. So we’re asking everyone on site to do their part.” An exception to the mask mandate will be for session presenters who will be farther than six feet from the front row of attendees. Once they finish their presentations, though, their masks must go back on.

Room Set-Ups Have Changed
Another event element that PCMA has altered is food-and-beverage services. “Our lunches and breaks will be different. The food is going to be wrapped and it will be set up in grab-and-go style. Also, it won’t be round tables set up in one large room; cocktail tables will be spread across that room as well as in prefunction spaces so that people can take off their masks to eat and feel safe.” The facility’s 100,000-square-foot outdoor terrace will also be used for accommodating attendees during meals and breaks.

In meeting rooms, “we're creating a lot of different types of seating. For instance, we’re doing crescent rounds with only a few people at each table, and at the back of each room will be cocktail tables that are spread out. That opens up the spaces so that people can have more distance. Also, as a new facility, Caesars Forum has the latest ventilation system” with HEPA filters, which are recommended to combat Covid transmission.

In addition to the in-person attendance, about 1,000 attendees are expected to partake in the virtual version of Convening Leaders, which will have 45 sessions and will livestream all main-stage presentations. Virtual-event prices for members and non-members are about 30 percent of in-person pricing.

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