For those who might have missed it, there was an awesome hybrid event happening in Phoenix, Arizona last week: PCMA EduCon: We Are Better Together! As anticipated, it was a huge success and the Event Brew hosts are here to tell the story.
Will, Thuy, and Nick revisit PCMA EduCon 2021 and share three different perspectives: one of a co-host, one of a virtual attendee, and one of an educated outside observer. What went right and what went wrong? They tell it all!
PCMA EduCon 2021: Will Hosted, Thuy Attended
Will prefaces the conversation by saying that the PCMA EduCon 2021 took place in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. And there’s more: he was also the co-host of the entire event! “I’m a DES (Digital Event Strategist) professor for the program and I had an amazing co-host, Ameerah Saine. She’s way more professional on the emceeing side of things. I spent most of the week just bouncing back and forth between a virtual studio and the main stage as well.”
Thuy was also a part of the PCMA EduCon 2021, as an attendee. The initial reason why she attended makes for a pretty funny story. “It all started because I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with walking challenges that the industry hosts. I needed to do the challenge because I got second place the last time I did it,” she laughs.
Will elaborates on the health challenge. “It’s really cool. You connect to your Apple’s Health app or Google Fit account to it and just do what you’re normally doing. And then, you’re getting points for that. In addition to that, if you go to massages or do the painting, you get extra points as well. Thuy actually crushed the health challenge,” he says.
PCMA EduCon 2021: A Hybrid Event Done Right
“The PCMA EduCon 2021 was probably the best hybrid experience I’ve ever seen,” Thuy says. “It was so engaging. I couldn’t just turn off and start doing emails, even for the educational sessions. There were discussions and conversations.” She appreciates that Will gave shout-outs to the digital attendees while on the stage. “There were so many elements that made me have no FOMO at all. I’m glad I attended it from a digital attendee standpoint.” What an amazing compliment!
“There are a few shows that I’ve attended which really understood their virtual audience and did their best really to give them content in a way that makes sense for that experience and not just set up a camera somewhere,” Nick adds. “InfoComm, Convening Leaders, CES, all the shows that have a designated area for live content creation with live moderators who were versed in the topics. Those who aren’t just reading a teleprompter, but are in fact subject matter experts that have personality.”
Will’s Critique Of The Production
Next, Will wants to dedicate some time to critiquing the event. “Obviously, I’ll be really critical of the production. Some organizations don’t have millions of dollars like CES or SXSW. Sometimes, they have to work with in-kind sponsors, especially coming back from the pandemic. They didn’t have any money to blow. A lot of production issues stem from the fact that there was a lot of reliance on the in-kind sponsors to be able to join and get to that level.”
A concrete example? “No one told me I shouldn’t wear black pants because I didn’t see the backdrop until I walked up. I just assumed that they’re going to do a tile set up and that it would be all lit up. Even if I was wearing black pants, a good video color corrector could make it look like I actually kept dimension. But what that does is it cranks the contrast really high to make the back panels pop with color. In reality, they were lit up pretty white, but on the video, they were blue. Again, it just made me wonder, did we learn anything from last year?”
“The team at PCMA is pretty small to be able to accomplish all this. They’re also not production experts. They don’t have a production person on their team. We need to be able to make sure that if you want to have a high quality production, you have to have a production person on your team who can help with these things,” he concludes.
Houston, We Have A Problem
Thuy also has a negative remark to give. “As a digital attendee, I noticed there were some technical issues. But the thing is that it wasn’t communicated properly. They were going 10, 15 minutes past the queue time. I felt like they could have taken more accountability, explaining what it was. People were asking questions in the chat pane and it was just silent. We were all just sitting there,” she says.
“I don’t think that the problem would have been on the PCMA team,” replies Will. “You always need to have someone monitor your livestream to avoid that.”
PCMA EduCon 2021: Content Was King!
Moving on to the good things about PCMA EduCon 2021, Thuy cannot stop raving about how well they executed the hybrid aspects of the event. “During their main stage segments, there were educational sessions that had panels of four people. Two of them were in Phoenix, two of them were digital. I felt really included as a digital attendee because that speaker was also across the country,” she says.
Then, she praises the content. “Also, it was so relatable as to what we’re going through as an industry. I consider myself an expert in the virtual platform world in regards to creating experiences, but I’ve learned new things at PCMA EduCon 2021. I was screenshotting things and sending them to my team. Talking about behavioral science was also great. I loved Tim Simpson and Greg Bogue.”
Nick has met Greg about six years ago at IMEX, which eventually led him to work with Maritz Global Events for years. “They have intellectual content, mirrored with excitement and passion. I’ve been to a lot of sessions where the really smart people are fairly dry and where people with lots of enthusiasm aren’t really saying anything. They’re the best at marrying those two things together. PCMA definitely find people who are both smart and exciting,” he shares. “Content is an important element for PCMA. It’s one of the pillars of all the shows that are represented by the attendees there. Where Will can see black curtains, they can see bad content.”
Virtual Content Is Evergreen
Will agrees with his co-hosts. “PCMA thrived through the pandemic because they doubled down on content. Instead of relying on their members to get together, they just pumped out even more content. They come out with a new certification or a shorter version of certification and did a lot of webinars. The fact that they’re so native in the hybrid and digital space also helped make PCMA EduCon 2021 so amazing.”
And as far as speakers go, PCMA focuses on quality content rather than stunt casting. “The stunt casting of a speaker looks cool. It brings people in. But when people want to see if they want to attend this three years from now, and they’ll look at the quality of what’s there and they find that there’s no real quality content, bringing in a celebrity really doesn’t work. Also, virtual content lives forever. We’re in another place where this hybrid world is not just about the live digital and in-person audience, but also the evergreen audience that you could have down the line,” says Nick.
In Conclusion, PCMA Was A Success!
“This was my first experience with PCMA and I am now a fan,” says Thuy before the Brew Crew wraps up. “I would actually consider going to new Orleans because that’s where their next EduCon is.”
“Kudos to them because hybrid events can be scary. It’s twice as much work. And I thought they did a great job, making sure that the virtual attendees felt included. I will say a takeaway for just event professionals coming back, whether you’re in-person or virtual, if you don’t like the keynote or you don’t like the educational session, I encourage you to stand up and walk out,” she adds.
So, there you have it! PCMA EduCon 2021 delivered on many fronts. From amazing co-hosts to insightful content, it just might be THE hybrid event of the year. If you want to learn more about hybrid events, make sure to download our comprehensive guide! And if you like recaps of conferences and big industry events, you’re in luck. The Brew Crew plans on visiting TSE in Miami, so you will be hearing from them soon!