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Kicking off the PCMA’ 2016 Convening Leaders

Kicking off the PCMA’ 2016 Convening Leaders

Cultivating creative and engaging moments in Vancouver

This article originally appeared on the Face to Face with Freeman blog.

On Sunday, event marketers from around the world descended on downtown Vancouver for a splashy start to the 2016 PCMA Convening Leaders. The awe-inspiring opening event let attendees create their own unique way to experience the city.

Convening Leaders is all about “cultivating creative moments” this year, and the opening event was the perfect proof of concept—the ambience was carefully crafted to engage all the senses and give attendees a personalized introduction to their time in Vancouver. Different-colored quadrants of the vast Expo Hall featured activities like virtual skiing and hockey slap shot booths, delicious food choices, and unusual entertainers like aerialist bartenders, puppeteers manning a giant, dancing wire sculpture, and fire dancers lighting up the main stage.

Finding the value in great attendee experiences

The opening event truly set the tone for the first day of Convening Leaders, which had a prevailing theme of how to create excellent experiences for attendees. This is something that PCMA did successfully for its attendees, starting off with a great general session in the uniquely flexible setting of the Vancouver Convention Centre. The crown jewel of the session was undoubtedly the giant blended projection screen that wowed audience members. The Freeman AV team created a fun element of surprise with the screen, making it look like a series of smaller screens before the wall-to-wall display burst into life.

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson started the day talking with CNN’s Mel Robbins about his journey to the leadership of Marriott, the surprise merger with Starwood (a prevailing question: what happens to our Starpoints?), and what he looks for in a great travel or event experience.

In the opening session, PCMA and Marriott debuted a new research study on five top meeting trends facing the event industry in the next year. A panel of experts was then interviewed to bring insights from their fields and discuss the implications for the future of brand experiences. The topics discussed included a focus on wholeness beyond wellness, measuring the impact of an event through data, how tribes of like-minded people can help to create outcomes, how to embrace the non-linear nature of content, and how to capture virtual audiences.

Breaking down the elements of the perfect experience

There is a wealth of information available to attendees during every moment of Convening Leaders, from hands-on sessions in the Learning Lounge to wellness classes to focused breakout sessions that fit in perfectly with the theme of cultivating creative moments—all focused on the attendee experience.

One track of breakout sessions centers on the connection of data and engagement, helping to demystify the tools and tactics that event marketers can use to collect key data to learn more about what their attendees want and need. A key takeaway that was repeated across sessions was not just the importance of collecting data, but using those metrics to create experiences that meet the objectives at hand: those of your attendees, your organization, and your sponsors.

Second screen technology wasn’t just buzzed about as a data technology, but used throughout different sessions to help PCMA get a holistic picture of how attendees were interacting with the content on offer. David Haas from FreemanXP and Adam O’Hara from Reed Exhibitions even let attendees of their Data 101 session peek behind the curtain of FXP | touch, the second screen solution being used at Convening Leaders, to get a real-time look at the kinds of audience engagement data they can collect during shows.

Personalization equals engaging experiences

Another group of sessions focused on the creative ways that eventprofs can utilize personalization. Speakers talked about using data analytics to create brand experiences that prove that you understand attendee needs, all while providing engaging, interesting content that creates value and keeps them coming back for more.

Moving from a “one size fits all” approach to a “one size fits me” approach instead, according to McDonald’s engagement manager Lisa Fingerhut, is key to appealing to target audiences and creating content that resonates with what they want. If we provide targeted engagements for the audiences that make them want to share their experiences, we can extend reach far beyond the event.

But how can you ensure that you’re giving attendees what they want at every point in their event experience? We suggest turning to psychology and an eventprof angle on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. FreemanXP’s Niru Desai and Kati Quigley, Microsoft’s senior director of partner community marketing, shared an insider’s look at the ways that Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference caters to attendee needs on every level, from connection to networking to growth.

We’re looking forward to another great day at Convening Leaders and even more great sessions from industry experts. Follow us on Twitter and track the hashtag #PCMACL for on-the-spot updates, and check back tomorrow for another daily recap!

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