PCMA Convening Leaders is the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) annual gathering of high-ranking meetings industry executives.
The purpose of the event is to share insights on developing successful business strategies and offer unique learning experiences in a variety of settings across the three-day conference.
Chicago-headquartered PCMA draws most of its 6,500 members from the Americas, but recent years has seen it strengthening links in Asia and Europe. By working with Singapore-based partners, notably the city’s tourism board and the industry association Saceos, the PCMA aims to extend its education role and promote the value of professional convention management in Asia Pacific.
Two regional advisory bodies for Asia Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa were announced at PCMA Convening Leaders 2017 held in Austin, Texas, January 8-11.
Among the unique selling points of Austin is its claim to fame as the music capital of the USA with around 250 live performance venues and the guitar a symbol of the city.
Local heroes such as country star Willie Nelson, actor Matthew McConaughey and Roy Spence (the adman who coined the phrase “Don’t Mess with Texas”) aren’t shy about playing ambassadors for their native city. They even found the time to appear at Convening Leaders, thanks to the efforts of the local convention bureau and others.
For more photos from the event, see our Show Off section
The city also has a reputation for friendliness and a compact downtown means major hotels are a short walk from the Austin Convention Centre. Austin’s largest hotel, the 1,012-room JW Marriott, brought the city’s total room count to more than 7,000 when it opened in 2015.
Security was also a prime consideration with FBI crime data showing Austin to be one of the safest cities in the US.
With thousands attending popular conferences and festivals like SXSW (Southwest by Southwest) and Austin City Limits, the city showed it had proven experience in safety and event organisation.
“This is arguably the most important event in our industry,” Bob Lander, president and CEO of Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, said after the bid was won.
Lander said the city had been working for three years to secure the bid and was eager to show “Austin’s creative, collaborative, and innovative culture to the industry’s leading meeting professionals and attendees from around the world”.
Delegates arriving at Austin-Bergerstrom International Airport found a pre-registration area built in the style of a city music venue. Identity cards were issued from a long desk resembling a bar with musicians and margheritas offered before delegates were escorted to buses arranged for downtown hotels.
The Sunday evening welcome reception at Palmer Events Center saw Texan-style F&B along with leading local bands performing on a stage based in the centre of the main exhibition hall. The main meetings and seminars were held at the downtown Austin Convention Centre under the theme of “designing collaboration”. The letters LAB were stylised in signage to symbolise the experimenting and research that PCMA encourages. These “learning labs” were dotted around the centre and covered event design, production, wellness and technology.
A group of students from Singapore Polytechnic had won a trip to Austin and delivered their presentation at Convening Leaders, while the PCMA’s Asia regional advisory board was also named.
The opening plenary included a “surprise” appearance from Austin native and movie star Matthew McConaughey who gave the audience his take on the city’s ideals and values.
Tech-industry analyst Rachel Botsman shared predictions on how trust is becoming a cornerstone of the sharing economy, while economist Jeremy Rifkin, an advisor to the European Union, spoke of how the “Third Industrial Revolution” will be powered by the Internet of Things with care for the environment being crucial.
Breakfast, coffee and “happy hours” were available at Austin House, opposite the convention centre, where the local convention bureau and suppliers showcased live music, food and pop-up stores from some of the city’s leading brands.
The closing-night gala was held at the Austin Statesman, one of the city’s latest unique venues. The former newspaper printing plant was transformed and featured open-air festival space with bars and dance floor inside. Headlining the main stage outside was Austin icon Willie Nelson.
About 200 people in Asia Pacific are reported to have watched a delayed live broadcast of the event while sessions were also aired globally. PCMA and convention bureau officials estimate the immediate economic return for Austin to be US$11 million, but the overall benefits are usually felt for years as planners often return with their own meeting groups.
For more coverage on PCMA, see here.
Event: Convening Leaders 2017
Organisers: PCMA; Austin Convention Bureau
Venue: Austin Convention Centre (main venue)
Big Moments: Matthew McConaughey; Tech Labs; reception at Palmer Convention Centre, closing night with Willie Nelson
Date: January 8-11