PCMA Brings Events Community Together Through Convening Leaders
Trying to serve as a guiding light in a challenging period, PCMA brought together more than 3,000 attendees in an unusual experience befitting the COVID era.
Primarily a virtual event, PCMA’s Convening Leaders, held Jan. 11-15, also featured several hub cities where event professionals could enjoy an in-person experience while taking in the education.
In a remarkable moment, a short musical performance was livestreamed from Singapore—where 300 persons were in attendance—before a general session.
Halfway across the world in Las Vegas, Caesars Entertainment attempted a different, but perhaps even more ambitious experience. Seeking to spotlight its new crown jewel, Caesars Forum, the hotel and entertainment giant hosted about 74 attendees for what amounted to a three-day FAM Trip befitting one of the industry’s largest events.
“We felt it was really important that our program would be worthwhile for people to travel to,” said Reina Herschdorfer, Caesars’ director of marketing, national meetings and events.
Down to the Wire
If nothing else, Caesars fulfilled PCMA’s mission mixing education—Convening Leaders was live streamed there— and business opportunities at its January experience.
Tinsley Flint, meetings manager at Connect, said one of the primary reasons she flew from Atlanta to Las Vegas was to witness how Caesars maintained safety protocols while putting on a memorable event. It also served as a site visit before Connect hosts an event in Las Vegas in May.
“I wanted to see what they did right and what I could learn,” she said. “They did a good job juggling groups. It never felt crowded and I was never uncomfortable.”
Such high praises must be music to Herschdorfer’s ears. The Caesars team was forced to adapt several times before January’s gathering. When it first developed its three-day itinerary in November, 250 people were allowed in one space under Las Vegas safety guidelines. One month later, that number was down to 50, where it currently remains.
Naturally, social distancing was in place thanks to limited seating at round tables, single-person tables in classroom-style education lounges and reduced numbers of passengers on buses and other tour vehicles.
Attendees, who were offered a rare opportunity to bring a guest, RSVP-ed up to one week before the gathering. Meanwhile, PCMA was altering its own program’s agenda as showtime neared.
Viva Las Vegas
Because more than 50 people came to Vegas, Caesars split the attendees into two groups for most of the excursions and activities. The itinerary served as a vehicle to showcase Caesars Forum—a grand convention center that opened last March and has only hosted one other major event due to the pandemic—and other Caesars properties. It also put the spotlight on Las Vegas, a destination hit arguably the hardest by travel restrictions and lockdowns. Activities included:
- Excursion choice to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area; Hoover Dam or The Mob Museum;
- Dinner at Rao’s Italian restaurant followed by a Daniel Emmet concert at Paris Theater. Caesars flip-flopped the two groups so the sets enjoyed the same experience on different nights.
- A reception at the Neon Museum, an outdoor venue where all attendees were allowed.
- A tour of Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Caesars will have many more opportunities to impress this year, as it is slated to host MPI’s World Education Congress in June and CVENT CONNECT in August, among other events.
Flint, for her part, came away convinced groups can meet safely and enjoyably. She was particularly taken by Caesars Forum. “It was incredible—the prettiest event space I have ever been to,” she said. “They thought of everything.”
Meanwhile, in a galaxy a mere smartphone away, Convening Leaders provided programming reflective of the pandemic and the echoes of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.
“We need to do a better job being more diverse and inclusive,” said Stuart Ruff-Lyon, chairman of PCMA.
PCMA CEO and President Sherrif Karamat added that the effort includes issues across the world, including gender equality and LGBTQ acceptance.
Despite, or arguably as a result of the pandemic, PCMA enjoyed record membership this past year as event professionals sought a way to remain connected while physically apart. The organization reported a spike in Gen Z membership, signaling that digital content has been effective.
Karamat predicted face-to-face meetings will pick up in the third or fourth quarter, with a full recovery likely for 2023. Even then, he said, the world will be different.
“Our reality tomorrow is not what it was pre-COVID,” he said. “We all have changed, and I would venture to say we don’t know how we’ve changed. Recovery will be robust, but it will be different.”
Photos: Caesars Entertainment