The PCMA’s mission is to provide networking opportunities through education and events. Vancouver’s local chapter, Canada West, hosted PCMA Spark on October the 18th this year in support of those activities. PCMA Spark was a half-day conference that the planners hoped to be the beginning of an annual legacy event.
Creating Community with Purposeful Event Design
One of the sessions during the conference had been Tahira Endean’s talk on purposeful event design. Essentially, she laid out the basics of designing events with an objective in mind, whether it was education, relaxation, or community, by utilizing every aspect of the event from venue to scents to technology.
Looking around after the conference, I could definitely see the effects of purposeful effort from Jenny Stanfield and Shawn Cheng, the organizers of the event. It was evident in how the halls were still full of people, even an hour after the closing talks had ended. I could hear a lively conversation about a mutual acquaintance, alongside another discussion of the company that had provided the furniture for Spark.
The whole conference had been like this. Relatively small in size, with roughly 80 attendees, most of the day had been abuzz with conversation in and out of sessions. Presenters actually mingled with the attendees—after all, “networking for event planners” included them, too.Boasting roughly 80 attendees, PCMA Spark was abuzz with conversation from beginning to end @PCMACW Click To Tweet
Sessions and opening notes seemed more like conversations between friendly colleagues than a more rigid ‘presentation’. Often, presenters called out specific attendees in the audience, and chatted back and forth from the stage and the audience seating.
Cheng commented on how the event had been set up precisely to facilitate this type of discussion and networking for event planners locally.
“We decided to do this half day event because it’s really different when you deliver one small session at a time,” he explained, gesturing around us, “People have more time to mingle and have those conversations. I think overall we got what we wanted.”It's different having smaller sessions. It gives people time to have those conversations. @PCMACW Click To Tweet
Networking for Event Planners: Crucial Professional Development
Attendees valued the educational purposes of the PCMA, but it was evident through my conversations with them that the opportunities for event planners to network with event planners was crucial to their attendance.
“Oh, this is the only time I get to see Robert,” another woman told me during lunch, referring to our seatmate. We, including organizer Stanfield and Havovie Suraliwalla (author of Questions I Wanted to Ask My Event App Vendor), who had been at the reception desk, all shared a table during the meal—served family style, which only added to the familiar atmosphere. “I love the sessions, of course, but it’s also great to see everybody here.”
This sentiment was echoed throughout the conference. Attendees applauded sincerely when Roger Haskett was called up on stage to introduce his upcoming session, and his manner was friendly and easy, referring to attendees by name.SPARK gave #eventprofs the chance to gain insight and (re)connect with peers @PCMACW Click To Tweet
Haskett’s session, when it began, was full of laughter and a very engaged crowd. He spoke about making meaningful connections at networking events, of having valuable conversations as a vehicle towards professional development. In fact, it seemed a rather apt summary of the Spark event.
“It’s about creating connections in our industry,” Stanfield elaborated to me afterwards, “A lot of us work in silos, so coming together to connect on a face-to-face level—that’s what our industry is all about.”
Even Stanfield and Cheng had participated in the networking. Contrary to the typical ‘behind the scenes’ nature of event planning, they had been visible throughout the morning, introducing the opening speakers and chatting with attendees as the conference had gone on.
“I love seeing everybody, so the networking is a big part of it for me,” one attendee said, when asked about why she attended PCMA events, “But also, I only run one major meeting a year. It’s really great for me to hear from other people who are doing different kinds of events.”
Helping Planners Get Face to Face
When you’re an event planner, your network is one of your most powerful resources. It only makes sense that networking for event planners takes up a good part of your professional development.
Whether you need vendor recommendations, a good conversation on technology trends, or even a sympathetic ear to hear about your latest conference struggles, you know that you’re part of a tightly knit community that can provide support and assistance.
This only makes events like PCMA Spark, which brings together planners and allows them to share information, contacts, and build both personal and professional connections with one another, all the more important.A healthy network is an event planner's greatest resource #eventprofs @PCMACW Click To Tweet
If you missed the conference but want to get in on the action, check out the videos from the live stream at the PCMACW’s Facebook page. Don’t forget to connect with us on Twitter at @QuickMobile and @PCMACW!
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