5 Lessons We Learned From PCMA

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PCMA attendees attempt to break a Guinness Book of World Records record for the largest musical instrument created by people at Walk of Fame Park in Nashville.

With its largest-ever attedance, PCMA’s Convening Leaders converged on Nashville with a Guinness Book of World Records attempt, a keynote on leadership by General Stan McChrystal and an unrivaled display of industry innovation at its Future of Face2Face spinoff.

To view PCMA as just another meeting industry conference would be to miss the point. The association has always been the go-to for leading-edge ideas, a melting pot of meeting-related experiments—some that work, some that don’t.

Here are 5 lessons we learned from this week’s convention at the fabulous Music City Center.

Bigger is Better

If you have tens of thousands of people in one place, make the most of it. PCMA’s official Guinness Book of World Records attempt to build the world’s largest musical instrument made of people is a great example. The participants will never forget that crazy morning when they piled into Walk of Fame Park, all donning red t-shirts, dancing to ’80s favorites as the Guinness Book officials monitored the head count. In the end, they didn’t make the record, which was set by 1,660 people creating a saxophone in the Promenade du Paillon in Nice, France, in 2014—but no one seemed to mind.

Take Risks

The Future of Face2Face was set up in a ballroom with dozens of booths displaying the latest tech and thought leadership. You could move from a session on how to use audiovisual technology to activate the physiological triggers of emotion to a tech bar where the experts at Dahlia+ were ready to help with your LinkedIn profile to a comfy sofa to watch sessions being held in other parts of the convention on huge HD screen.

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Greg Topalian of LeftField Media and Marian Bossard of the Toy Association on the Center Stage.

Reimagine Meeting Space

A highlight of the Future of Face2Face was a center stage where ongoing presentations took place in the middle of all the action in the room as listeners donned headsets. Just think: You could create four sessions at the same time in the same ballroom with this concept. For first-timers, it caught them off guard for just a minute, but they immediately got into the groove.

Honor Your Volunteers

PCMA is expert at thanking its volunteers, who are the heart of every association. Janet Tan-Collins, president of the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers, received the 2017 Chairman’s Award. An impressive slate of nominees were named for the 2018 Visionary Awards, which will take place in May.

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Departing PCMA leader Debra Sexton

It All Starts at the Top

PCMA has been transformed under the leadership of Debra Sexton, who is retiring after Convening Leders. She will be replaced by COO Sherrif Karamat. In 12 years at the helm, she more than doubled the association’s membership and revenues. We wish her all the best.


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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.