PCMA VP for Global Growth and Innovation, Michelle Crowley, passes on to CMW some crucial lessons learned from an international meetings career.
My role as Vice-President of Global Growth and Innovation for PCMA has taken me around the world.
In the past decade with PCMA, an international association for business events professionals, I’ve learned a lot about the cultural customs and traditions everyone should know in order to successfully conduct international business.
What I didn’t expect was that, despite our global economy, there is much to learn from each other when it comes to the future of business events.
I first realised this in 2016, when PCMA’s Foundation released the first edition of its Future of Meetings & Events research that was conducted in collaboration with Marriott International. The goal was to challenge current industry norms by gathering insights from leaders outside the business events industry. I spent part of 2016 presenting the research to more than 10 countries. While I didn’t expect every country to wholeheartedly agree with the results, I wasn’t quite prepared for how much I learned about the localised expertise in our industry.
My first stop was in Brussels where I co-presented the research at the European Association Summit with Sven Bossu, who worked with SIBOS at the time. Here was a group of business events executives who were expecting to hear how expensive these new ideas were going to cost. Instead, Sven explained how to incorporate the future trends without a significant capital infusion. This was my first lesson in looking at things in a different way. He shared case studies on how to integrate all of the trends in analogue. No fancy tech needed! He opened my eyes, and the audience’s, to how we can think differently and creatively to change the experience.
In Singapore, I quickly learned the Future of Meetings & Events trend focused on ‘Living 360’, incorporating a wellness component into business events through programming and event-space design, was something the local industry had embraced long ago. This Singapore audience was now teaching me about the future and providing examples that I could pass on to other countries.
I remember passionate opinions and discussion in Dubai where a group of 100+ gathered in a conference room during the IAPCO Annual Meeting. There was a lively debate on whether the research trends were too extreme or too soft. It led to an exciting exchange about how we could all progress together.
In the end, my experience yielded four key reflections:
1. Debate is good. We must always question why we designed an experience a certain way and how could we improve it. The participant must remain at the centre of that design, always.
2. Global travel is crucial to growth. We have to provide opportunities for everyone to cross borders so our industry, and others, can continue to learn from one another.
3. Face-to-face meetings are still relevant. While this fundamental component of business events remains strong, the experiences, environments and circumstances must evolve.
4. Stay curious. We have to keep looking around, noticing, challenging and exchanging.
I expected meeting members through 10 countries would have an effect on me, but I wasn’t prepared for how it made me more optimistic about the future of this industry. I’m more aware of how we must be intentional about how our community can do more and always design with outcomes in mind.