PCMA EduCon 2014 Recap: Engagement from Beginning to End

PCMA EduCon 2014 was a “mid-year reboot” for the event professionals in attendance, meant to inspire them to think more creatively, and to not be afraid to take bigger risks in order to change what people expect a conference to be. From the opening party that no one could stop talking about to a an open-learning conference format on Tuesday to the closing breakfast talks that gave everyone a lot to digest, PCMA definitely walked their talk during the 3-day conference, creating an engaging experience that had something for everyone.

The event even engaged attendees from the palm of their hands with the official PCMA EduCon app (powered by QuickMobile). With the mobile event app, attendees could do things like keep themselves on track by creating their own personalized schedules, send invitations to people to meet up instead of running around trying to find them, and provide feedback with in-app surveys.

In keeping with Tuesday’s disrupted conference format, the app even included a special Hot Topics forum, where attendees could suggest topics they wanted to talk about on Tuesday and others could vote for the ones they liked. The most popular topics were turned into impromptu discussions that were very casual, easy to jump into and got all participants involved.

Meeting design and engagement

One of my favorite sessions from Day 1 was Meeting Design Innovation: Engineering Engagement for High Impact Results with Scott Kellner and David Rich from George P. Johnson. The guys went through the cultural trends that will affect the meeting industry and technology, social media and content will all play a big part in this shift. People now expect a personalized experience and to have fingertip control of everything. According to Scott and David, mobile apps allow you to connect what’s happening, on your device and on your time, which creates that intimate experience.

With the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) era here to stay, event professionals must challenge themselves to find a place for mobile in their events in order to meet the expectations of their attendees.

In regards to social media, brands must create opportunities for dialogue and then, turn the conversation into opportunities for interaction and positive business outcomes. It’s also important to provide people with content early on in order to get them excited and then, invite them to participate in your event using multiple touch points, like mobile apps and videos, during and after your event. Most important of all, make it frictionless for attendees to share your content, such as by including it in your app.

Disrupted format case study

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The reaction was very positive to the disrupted Day 2 experience. Five areas on themes like Business Strategy, Conference Wellness, and Technology were set up around one conference hall. Attendees liked that they had the freedom to join a session and then, leave it without disrupting others. There were also specific areas where people could do smaller meetings, work on takeaways together, meet new people, actually do work, charge their devices or even just recharge. Standing in the middle of the room, it was quite noisy, but everyone seemed to enjoy the noise as it was a testament to the fact that people were openly sharing their ideas and engaging with the conference.

The 5 meeting and event trends to watch for

On the last day, the closing session had five “trendologists” share the biggest trends in the industry. Attendees were invited to participate in a live poll to share what trends they thought were most relevant to their current job. The results were then shared on the screens in the room. Here are the top trends according to area:

1. Technology – Data-Driven Decision Making
2. Food & Beverage – Special Dietary Needs (Lifestyle vs. Allergies)
3. Travel & Hospitality – Supply and Demand
4. Globalization – Mobility of Talent & Knowledge
5. Tradeshow & Exhibitions – Reimagined Footprints (changing format of trade shows)

I learned tons from the Education Conference (it would’ve been ironic if I didn’t, based on that name!). We met a ton of really great people and I’m already looking forward to Convening Leaders 2015 in Chicago and the next EduCon in Fort Lauderdale.