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What is PCMA & Convening Leaders? Our special guest host this week, Brandt Krueger, will be interviewing our Iconic Panelists and talking about PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association)! Our Iconic Guests include Carrie Johnson, Senior Program Manager at PCMA and Shannon DeSousa, Director of Sales & Industry Relations at Attendease, and PCMA’s 20 in their 20’s award recipient. These amazing ladies will be discussing the benefits of membership in PCMA, such as networking and expanding your education, and how to get involved/volunteer and make connections! We’re also going to be getting the scoop on PCMA Catalyst, Convening Leaders (Coming Up: January 8-11, 2017 in Austin, TX and in Nashville, TN 2018), Brain Dates, Tech Central, the Learning Lab, and SO MUCH MORE! This is an episode you don’t want to miss! We’re discussing everything you ever wanted to know about PCMA and Convening Leaders!

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Quote of the Day:
“Don’t be afraid of your vendors. They are your partners in success and if you treat them as such, not only will they have your back, but they’ll also be able to give you really good tips and tricks and ensure you’re successful because they have a stake in your gain.” ~Shannon DeSousa

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Transcription of this episode:

Brandt: All right, everybody. I am actually Brandt Krueger. I’m stepping in for Will and Laura. Laura is enjoying some well-deserved rest and Will is actually on site with a client this week, so he’s paying attention in the chat room making sure I don’t mess things up too much. Like I said, my name is Brandt Krueger, and I’m excited to be stepping in here today to guest host this episode of Event Icons.

We’re being joined today. We’re going to talk today about PCMA, the Professional Convention Management Association being joined by two great guests. I’m excite about this because I really want to learn more about PCMA. It’s been on my list of things to do for quite sometime now, so it’s perfect timing, so I’m going to be learning along just with you guys. Being joined today with Carrie Johnson who is the Senior Program Manager at PCMA. Carrie has been an educational professional for over 10 years and has worked with at least a dozen different associations before coming to PCMA in 2014.

Hello, Carrie. Thanks for joining us.

Carrie: Hello. Thank you, Brandt.

Brandt: All right. We’re also being joined today by Shannon DeSouza who is the Director of Sales & Industry Relations at Attendease. She is one of PCMA’s 20 in their Twenties, so congratulations on that. Thanks for joining us, Shannon.

Shannon: Thanks. Thanks for having me, Brandt.

Brandt: All right. Look at the rest of your bio here. You are an event tech, evangelist, speaker, and thought leader, award-winning EventProf, and novice nature lover. It always feels weird to hear your own bio, doesn’t it?

Shannon: I am also in sales, so I know how to write a good bio.

Carrie: Exactly.

Brandt: Very good. Very good. Remember folks, if you’ve got questions, please be sure and type those into the chat box or the Q&A box and go to Meeting, or you can also join us #EventIcons on Twitter where our good friend, Alex will be looking for questions there and helping us retweet and talk about all of the things we’re going to learn today on Twitter, so join us wherever you want to join us. Those are the best ways to get a hold of us and get your questions in for Carrie and Shannon, but I’m going to kick things off a little bit the way that we usually do it. By the way, apparently, if you’re on the show at least three times, that qualifies you to host, so just so you know, if you want to keep that in mind, that’s apparently how I’ve been able to get involved here.

Carrie: This is the last time I’m going to be on the show by the way.

Brandt: Yeah.

Shannon: I want to see if I can get to that. [I’ll do 00:03:30] that.

Brandt: Yeah. If you’ve ever wanted to host your own show, you just have to be on this one three times, and then just so you know, you’re on it.

Shannon: Got it.

Brandt: Thank you guys again for joining us. I want to start with you, Carrie. What got you into the events industry?

Carrie: It was primarily by accident because I was working in a music production studio and I got laid off, and so then, it forayed into working at an association management company, and that’s how I really got into more of the education side of the events industry.

Brandt: Okay. Shannon, how about you?

Shannon: I like Carrie’s answer around the accident, and I feel that’s the same way. I’ve always worked in tech, and I had two full-time jobs. I started my own wedding planning company about 10 years ago, and then working through the ranks and starting up weddings, I realized I like the business side of things more, so I focused on sales, and then I decided, “No. I want to go a little bit more corporate”, so I ended up finding my previous company, EventMobi online and I wrote this insane cover letter about how I love events and I’m all about events and I know tech and sales and marketing, and my CEO gave a call that next day and said, “Let’s figure something out for you”, and then all of a sudden, here I am, event tech.

Brandt: That’s definitely a story that we hear quite often is that event people, especially if you’ve been in it for over 5 or 10 years just fell into it. It’s only been within the last few years that there’s actually schools where you can go to learn this stuff which I think is great.

Shannon: Yeah.

Brandt: At least, I mean, I think that’s a great addition to the industry, but it is funny how so many people, that is the story. We just fell into it. We’re going to be talking today about PCMA, and it’s an association. Before we get too deep into about what PCMA is all about, I just want to talk generally about event associations because there’s quite a few of them at this point.

Shannon: Yeah.

Brandt: There’s lots of different options out there. Like I said, I’ve been just had on my list to find out about PCMA because I kept hearing good things about it, but I hadn’t gotten around to it because I’ve been busy with some of the other ones that I’m involved in. What do you guys think? Is this a time when these people that are first coming out just coming out of school, they’re just getting into the business? Why should an event person get involved with one of these event associations? Shannon, what do you think?

Shannon: Honestly, I can only tell you my story, and it’s all about the network.

Brandt: Go on.

Shannon: There’s a reason why we continue to want to support face-to-face events. Digital is amazing and I’m part of that technology world, but building relationships in person and building relationships specific to your industry can only be done within a closed-door circle of the right folks, and I think PCMA definitely brings that to the table and that’s why I’ve really been a part of it.

Brandt: The networking end was really the major push for you as to meet other people in the industry that do what we do.

Shannon: Yeah, and build those relationships, and ultimately, we’re all trying to do business together, but this way, it’s a warm lead. It’s a warm touch and you trust each other given there’s all of these things that you can find online. At the end of the day, and Carrie, I’m sure you can speak to this, if something goes off the hook with your event, you want to call on someone you can trust and someone you know that’s going to be there, and that can really only be done through face-to-face and network and a relationship because that’s just the way human beings are.

Brandt: Carrie, what do you think? Why do you think a young professional should be coming in and joining an event association?

Carrie: I agree with Shannon completely that the networking side of it is crucial. I also would tack on the education side of that too because you can expand your skill set whether it’s about specific logistics or event strategy, design, business acumen. That’s very important as you rise within the ranks of any organization. To me, it’s education, but that’s a blend with networking because if the education that’s being delivered is interactive, you are going to be connected with people whether they’re like-minded, they differ in their opinions. You can learn so much from the people who are actually at the event as opposed to just from the persons or persons on the stage.

Shannon: Yup. I agree.

Brandt: I think that’s something that when I’ve been asked, “What’s your biggest professional regret?”, mine is almost always not getting involved in the industry earlier. For the better part of 15 years, I was just in my own little world, in my own little bubble, and it wasn’t until I got out that I started to see the benefits of getting together with other people that do what we do, and then like you say, Carrie, the education, and how can we bring up that next generation and keep the people that are currently doing it informed on what the latest trends are and what the latest ways of doing things are because things are constantly evolving?

Carrie: Yes.

Brandt: I want to go into how exactly, Carrie did you wind up with this association? You said you’ve been involved in what was it, 12 or 1,300 different associations?

Carrie: No, not hundred. 12 [inaudible 00:08:52].

Brandt: At least a dozen now, so 12?

Carrie: Yes.

Brandt: 12 different associations. How did you finally wind up with PCMA?

Carrie: I was at SmithBucklin here in Chicago for about seven and a half years, and it was one of those things where I love the association world and I just wanted to see what it would be like to work for just one association at a time. Then, PCMA has such a great reputation for education, and so I wanted to continue along in that path and it just seems like the perfect job for me and to really expand how I look at adult education, and learning design, and environments, and experience, so it was a perfect fit. I’m very glad to be here.

Brandt: Shannon, how did you get involved?

Shannon: Originally, it was about four years ago and the mandate was actually to join from a business perspective, and being the A-type that I am, I wanted to get super involved. I’m the type who likes to get onto all the committees, so I immediately joined the Communications Committee and I started contributing, and that’s where I found my real value. I was the first one to produce a printed newsletter for Canada East which I’m very proud of still to today, and I felt that I was getting a lot of practical skills especially from the marketing perspective that I could put on my resume that I felt was very helpful, but also along the education side of things, I was able to join Digital Strategy Communications Committee for headquarters, and then that’s where I felt like I was really pushing the envelope and contributing to the industry because it was all around focusing on the education we wanted to produce for all of our members and even non-members. That can maybe be in EduCon or Convening Leaders or through video, and it was our job to determine what that need was and put those recommendations forward.

Brandt: Great. We want to remind everybody, if you do have questions for Carrie or Shannon, please do send them in. If you’re in the GoToWebinar, you can do that in the chat box or you can do it via the questions part of the GoToWebinar boxes down there. Otherwise, if you are joining us on Twitter, you can send us a question via #EventIcons so we can find out a little bit more what you, the audience wants to know from our distinguished guests. To cover how you got involved like I said at the beginning, there’s a lot of different event associations that are out there.

What’s going to make PCMA different than some of the other industry associations that are out there? What would you say would be the perfect PCMA person to join? Carrie, let’s start with you.

Carrie: In terms of some of the other organizations out there, and I’m looking forward to hearing what Shannon’s answer is because I’m sure she’s been to different association events in this industry, what pops out for me is our consistency towards delivering education for the higher level business event professional. That has since I have been here and beforehand with PCMA for three years. That’s really been the focus across our events is how we can take the content and bring it up to a strategic place for a majority of it and the exception of some of those new tech tools or some of those how tos that people need to continue to have the knowledge that they need in some of the technical aspects of the events, but it’s just really just focusing more on that higher level business event strategies, and then what we do at our events. I don’t know if Shannon or Brandt, I don’t know if other event industry associations do this is that we deliberately take risks and try different things and are transparent about it, so some things may not work and we want the feedback and we share it. We talk about something that, like in Chicago, we had a Learning Lounge and we had it in a big exhibit hall and we experienced some sound challenges.

What do we do? We invested in research and figured out, “Okay. We can use special cloth sound walls and we can work with our providers and figure out how to put speakers and different things in different ways to really mitigate some of the sound issues”, and we talk about it and put it out there and say, “Here’s what we did. Here’s what we tried, and here’s how you can learn from that and think about it differently for your events.”

Brandt: I think that’s a great way to do it. Shannon, do you agree with that? Is those kind of the general types of people that you think should look into PCMA?

Shannon: I definitely feel … Yes, I agree with almost everything Carrie is saying. For somebody who is looking to stimulate their career and understand, so maybe they need more information around where the industry is moving and the type of education that’s necessary, PCMA is the perfect opportunity for you. They generally focus on having a more mature crowd there, and so for me, I really enjoy that because it’s I guess by parallel or parallel learning for me. I get it, the education, but I get the real-life experiences from each of these individuals, and they definitely foster a lot of communication around that in ensuring that we’re all sharing information and it’s not one directional, but they’re just lecturing you, so I really enjoy that.

I say the perfect person to join is somebody … This is for any association, somebody who’s looking to invest in their career and their industry. There’s no point in joining just because you want to get something out of it. You have to be ready to contribute, and then I think that is the right individual to join an association.

Brandt: I’m definitely seeing some similarities between what you guys are talking about and what I’ve seen with some of the other industry associations. I think everybody is definitely feeling that that we need to be more experiential and sharing knowledge, not just doing something and going, “Isn’t this amazing? Let’s look at it. Great”, but “Hey, this is why we chose it. This is some of the troubles that we ran into when we were doing it, and here’s how you can get around it. Here’s what we’ve learned in doing it, and if you want to apply this to your events, here’s what we can do.”

Shannon: Yeah.

Brandt: We are getting some questions in from the audience, so I do have one. That is, “Is PCMA a global organization or is it just the U.S.?” Carrie?

Carrie: Good. That is a great question. PCMA is a global organization. We don’t have chapters outside of North America, however, what we’re doing for different regions like the Asia Pacific region, in Europe, and the Middle East and Americas is that we are bringing event professionals from those areas around the world to different events like Convening Leaders and our Education Conference through our global scholarship program to really bring them to some of those events. We also in the future will be really focusing on some of those different markets and the types of education, experiences that makes sense for those particular audiences.

We are a global organization and we touch those different audiences from either our face-to-face events and also our digital events we have, so the Digital Experience Institute is part of PCMA and really focuses on providing thought leadership in the industry for digital events, and we have Hybrid Events that last year’s Convening Leaders Hybrid Event had participants from I believe over close to 30 different countries. Each year, that audience continues to grow and they continue to [engage 00:17:18], and through some of those digital events, to see what experiences they can get out of different PCMA events. That is a long-winded answer, but yes, we are a global organization.

Brandt: It sounds like a combination of some scholarships being able to bring people over here to meetings, and then being able to attend via digital means, so virtual events, hybrid events, that kind of thing.

Carrie: Yes. In terms of our programming, it’s been very important especially over the last three or four years to include enough global perspectives, whether it’s a speaker from outside of North America or business event professionals who take their events overseas or outside of their home country. We work with a number of the relationships, the different global organizations that we have to identify those thought leaders and speakers from outside of North America to bring them in, to provide more of a global perspective as opposed to just North American.

Brandt: Great. Is there any plans to expand chapters into other countries? The person that was asking says that they’re from the U.K.. Is there anything in the future as far as expansion?

Carrie: I have … Hold on. I’m in somebody’s office and I got a phone call, so I had to put it on silent. It wouldn’t be necessarily from a chapter standpoint. It’s really the plan at this point is event-based. It’s also through digital content and really tailoring it to the needs of the different audiences whether it’s podcast, articles, or other types of digital newsletters, so it’s just really as opposed to a chapter, going into that particular market and looking at the needs and providing a comprehensive engagement strategy through face-to-face and digital content.

Brandt: I have to say, it ties in a lot to what you were saying, Shannon about taking advantage of these connections and really getting together people even if it’s in virtual events and hybrid events, but still, just making those connections, getting exposed to people that aren’t from the same country that you are. I had the privilege of attending a conference where I was literally the only guy from the U.S., and that was such a … Just to be able to be in a room full of people from all over the world is just a mind-opening experience when you’re out of your comfort zone and hearing new things. Shannon, I want to touch on something that you like I said already mentioned, but how do you recommend people really taking advantage of their association memberships? How do they really take that, run with it? It sounds like you just got involved right away and started getting your hands in there and getting dirty.

Shannon: Yeah. Yeah.

Brandt: I mean, is that the trick or do you have any other advice as far as how do you really make the most of that?

Shannon: Yeah. That’s the trick of extroverts I would say, but unfortunately, the whole world isn’t an extrovert, so I think understanding your audience. Everyone can do it, but do it in different ways. People like me hit the room, go to any event that you can, and work the entire room. Get your connections, follow up with them, and build those relationships whether it’d be sharing relevant articles, as small as that or looking at the event list before you go to your next event to see if those folks are still there. Those are very, very small tips and tricks at the very minimum.

Of course, they’re always looking for volunteers. Everybody always is, so just asking that question, “How can I help?”, and if you have say 15 minutes a week that you can volunteer your time, I’m sure there’s something that they can find for you that will benefit the entire organization. That’s the second step I would definitely say. For those folks who are a little bit or more introverted than I am, I would say the first step is just get out the door. Just decide that you actually want to do this, and if you’re going to do it, connect.

There’s always going to be other introverts there. I would say look for folks like yourself and try to make those connections and [solidifications 00:21:44] from that perspective. The great thing about associations is you’re typically going to run into people who’ve been at there for 5, 10, 15, 20 years, and they’re always happy to take you under their wing, so just introducing yourself and saying, “You’re new”, boom. You’ll probably find five godmothers who will hook you up and not really have to do anything from that perspective, but also for introverts or quieter people, and even extroverts. We have something called ‘PCMA Catalyst’.

This is where folks post their questions from the community. Just getting involved by trying to respond to some of those questions or even post some relevant conversations that you’re seeing in the community or any news clippings or anything that could be helpful, that is the minimum viable product from that perspective in my opinion.

Brandt: Speaking of questions, if you have questions for Carrie or Shannon, be sure and put them into Twitter #EventIcons or throw them into the chat, and as we get them in, we will certainly be passing them on.

Carrie: Catalyst. [Love it 00:22:40].

Brandt: I do want to get to one of the main reasons that you’re here, and we’re doing this episode right now, and that is to talk about Convening Leaders, which is something that I have heard many, many good things about and I keep being told, “Why aren’t you going to Convening Leaders?”

Carrie: Why?

Shannon: Yeah. Why?

Brandt: “Why aren’t you going to Convening Leaders?”

Carrie: Why, Brandt?

Brandt: January 8th to 11th, so it’s coming right up, so Carrie, you’ve got nothing better to do right now other than be here right now.

Shannon: Yeah.

Brandt: Tell us a little bit about Convening Leaders. First of all, let’s find out from Carrie just a little bit generally about it, and then Shannon, I would love to hear your experience as you’ve gone to it, spoken at it, and worked from that separate perspective of the outside or not having to run it kind of person.

Shannon: For sure.

Brandt: Carrie, tell us a little bit about Convening Leaders and what it’s all about.

Carrie: Sure. Convening Leaders is taking place in Austin at the Convention Center there. Our theme for this year is designing colLABoration. If you can picture it, in the word ‘Collaboration’, lab is in all caps. That’s really our design principle as well throughout the event because if you’re thinking about the future of the industry and where that’s going, there’s more and more of an emphasis on collaboration, and not just internally within your teams or across your department.

It’s collaboration with your event providers, with just everyone who touches your event and even someone who if you want an outside perspective to really help come up with innovative solutions and things like that for your event and your organization, so it’s really emphasizing the importance of collaboration and getting out of your comfort zone. On the design side, just event design strategy is really a key piece and really thinking about their sessions on design thinking and different approaches and methodologies that you can adopt for your own events. The lab piece is pretty important because we have our Learning Lab that is formally, if you’re familiar with Convening Leaders, that’s Learning Lounge, and so that’s really a take or putting an emphasis on some of those smaller hands-on sessions, different types of activities. I’ll probably go in more depth in a bit on that, but it’s really putting the emphasis on getting your hands dirty and coming to the event, thinking about, “What are some of your main challenges? What’s keeping you up at night with your events, and what’s different subject matters or different people do you want to get in front of to really get the most out of the experience?”, and so really, education and building strong relationships like Shannon was talking about earlier is really the key emphasis of this event, and it’s really that blend of going to the sessions and participating.

A majority of the program is interactive and design that we intentionally, so you can not only walk away with some tangible takeaways and tips, but also share them because a lot of the folks at this event have been in the industry 10 plus years. They have experience delivering events around the world and there’s folks there that are very high level or part of that [inaudible 00:26:41] week conversation, and so you can get so much out of not only going to the sessions and contributing, but also hearing from some of those folks and really just connecting with people at the event. There’s different facets to the event that I know we’ll probably get into, and I’ll just high level it, so like most events are our breakout sessions and our concurrents. These are in terms of popularity, those sessions fill up, and again, the focus is on the higher level audience, but then, with the promise of delivering actionable takeaways that people can implement when they get back to their organizations after the event. Then, we also have our main featured speakers, whether that’s for our main stage sessions, A.K.A. general sessions.

We have thought leader speakers who are from outside of the industry and cover various topics that touch events as we know it whether it’s design, marketing, technology, the workplace, and our business school which is faculty for Convening Leaders. This year, it’s from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, and they’re a prestigious business school with a great executive education program, so we’ll have some sessions that are focused more on the different aspects of the business acumen. Then, just what’s going on in the Learning Lab and Tech Central. I don’t know, Brandt, if you want to stop me and –

Brandt: Yeah. I want to.

Carrie: Yeah. I’m going on. See, this is … I’m nerding out here.

Brandt: Woah. Woah. Just woah.

Shannon: She’s fast, Brandt. She’s fast.

Brandt: No. It’s all good. All good stuff. She’s fast. I do want to get into the Learning Lab and Tech Central, but I just want to ask real quick before we go into that, Shannon, what was your experience coming in as a rookie? What was your first Convening Leaders like?

Were you already heavily involved at that point? Just a little bit about what it was like to experience it as an attendee, as an ordinary member. You know what I mean?

Shannon: Okay. For sure. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit and see many different types of conferences, association, corporate, whatever it may be. To me, Convening Leaders is definitely a landmark event and it’s something that I can’t miss. It is definitely in my calendar every single year and they step it up and they don’t fail.

It’s kind of the South By Southwest for our industry in my opinion, so it’s really awesome that they’re in Austin this year. I’m not just saying that.

Brandt: I praise. Yeah. I praise.

Shannon: I’m not just saying that for sure. As an attendee, it’s on point. It’s extremely organized, well-communicated. There’s something for everybody. There’s no pressure I find in trying to horde you or herd you wherever you want to or they want you to go.

It’s very free and expressive, and there’s something for everyone which is what I really like and I truly enjoy that they do go above and beyond our industry because we have to look at everything in the world in order for us to learn. That’s me as an attendee.

Brandt: Okay. I got a question that came in. I promise, we’ll get to the Learning Lab and the Tech Central stuff, and this might be related, but I have heard this word buzzing around so it’s a good time for this question. What are Brain Dates? I’m hearing Brain Dates in relation to Convening Leaders. What is that?

Carrie: Brain Dates is a combination of a peer learning and networking type of experience. In advance of Convening Leaders, what we’ve done is given all of our registrants access to an online platform where people can create their profile and be able to go on and see all the different topics that people put on that platform because really, the intent is to connect people one-on-one on a similar topic of interest so they can come to Convening Leaders at a scheduled time and go on a Brain Date. That’s a 30-minute scheduled time during the program and you don’t have to be an expert in something. You just have to be passionate about it, whether it’s something industry related or a personal passion or interest. We saw this in action at C2 Montréal a few years ago, and that’s a pretty remarkable event.

We had a chance to see it in action and thought it’s really challenging to do crowdsourcing for 4,000 people. It is, and we typically have done that at EduCon, so when I thought, “Okay. We can have the opportunity to do this to really help people customize and curate their networking and learning experience”, I thought we have to do this, and it’s going to really allow people to get exactly what they want and what they’re looking for and hopefully be connected with someone who they can continue a business relationship with and build into their network. E‑180 is the company we’re working with, and they’re doing more and more Brain Dates with different industry organizations, but if you’re coming to Convening Leaders, I really urge you to check it out. A number of folks have gotten on the platform and submitted offers and requests for knowledge and already have been scheduling Brain Dates.

Shannon: Cool.

Carrie: If you’ve missed the platform, you can come to in the Learning Lab on level one. They have a Brain Date lounge where you can [deal 00:32:57] …

Shannon: Cool.

Carrie: The Matchmakers. That’s their name for their onsite support to Brain Dates. Their matchmakers will help facilitate that meeting and you go there and they connect you with the person you have Brain Date, and then you go and talk for 30 minutes.

Shannon: Awesome.

Brandt: How many of those sessions are you doing?

Carrie: I think it’s really based on demand, and we have a couple of spaces in the convention center that are set up with twosies and places where people can connect, so we’re ready for as many as get scheduled. It’s throughout the event. It’s open except for lunches and main stage sessions, Monday the ninth through Wednesday at about 10 a.m. on the 11th.

Brandt: Folks are just wondering if those are one-on-one or is it can it be a group? If there was a bunch of people that all wanted that was speaking, “Here, talk to someone”, speak on a certain topic. Is it one-on-one only or could there be possibly a group?

Carrie: It’s primarily one-on-one. What we’ve talked E‑180 about is that if there’s a topic that’s just hot and there’s a group of people that want to get together and talk about it, maybe doing some type of an impromptu small group Brain Date and just were playing that by ear, but it’s primarily one-on-one based.

Shannon: Sounds like a meet-up which is pretty cool.

Carrie: Yeah.

Brandt: Or certainly could evolve into one. That’s for sure.

Shannon: It could. For sure. For some topics, I would expect to.

Carrie: Exactly.

Brandt: It sounds like a great idea to like you say take the idea of crowdsourcing, crowdshaping events and try and make it on a more personal level that you can do in a larger group organization. All right. I promised we would get to the Learning Lab and Tech Central, so tell us a little bit about that, and then maybe, Shannon, you’ve done some work with the Learning Lab so maybe you can expand on that.

Shannon: For sure. My specialty is really focused on the Tech Central side of things because of my background is in tech. If you don’t know Dahlia El Gazzar, you definitely have to get to know her either in person, online. She’s probably the most sociable person in our industry and the most connected person I would say, but beyond that, she is a tech guru and evangelist. She’s who I want to be when I grow up, and so definitely take a look into Dahlia.

This really came from her brain and making tech accessible and building an environment where people feel comfortable to come and either ask questions, learn about specific technologies whether they’d be social media, LinkedIn. She has an awesome LinkedIn corner, or Snapchat, or Twitter, or Facebook, whatever it may be and basically giving you the high level not only experience, but also what’s new, how to use it, and there’s no such thing as a silly question. What she does is essentially gather all of the thought leaders and industry experts under each of these topics and she brings them together at Convening Leaders and exposes us. I’ll be working with her for Convening Leaders and basically allows us to educate the 4,000 attendees at Convening Leaders. It really gives back to us as well because we get a better understanding from a tech perspective of where the market is and how we need to help educate them and speak to them for the coming year any possible ideas.

Also, within Tech Central, she brings together the latest technologies and the vendors who stand behind them so you get a chance to experience those technologies, whether they’d be apps or [beacons 00:36:48] or who knows what, and it’s also a fun playground. There’s always contests going on. This year, there’s talk about drones. She makes it a real experience and something you don’t want to miss or you have to be a part of.

Carrie: No. Exactly. Dahlia has some really special things planned this year. There may be some drone races and you could come fly your own drone or … Right? There’s meet your own hologram, and you get a chance to experience virtual reality and artificial reality, and she’s –

Shannon: We shouldn’t say too much. We shouldn’t say too much.

Carrie: I know. See. This is why you’re on. See. This is why you’re on here.

Brandt: Leave them. Leave them wanting. Leave them wanting. Leave them wanting.

Carrie: Right?

Brandt: It’s out there.

Carrie: Go to the website. This is all going to be on there.

Shannon: There’s also education too, and to add to that is she has a very, very specific focus on track, but you’re not necessarily getting in all the other sessions, but it’s a focused area, so if you want to get really in depth with tech, you can or if you want to pop in and get some information here and there, you can.

Carrie: Yes.

Shannon: It varies from novice all the way to advanced, and if you want to have deeper conversations, and there’s a whole slew of folk who are waiting and willing to have those deeper conversations as well.

Carrie: Bring your own device. If you have any questions about any type of event or personal tech, there’s a tech bar and there’s going to be experts there to answer your questions, and there’s going to be a social media area, so if you want to get a refresher or get a one-on-one on Snapchat and some different tools, you can do that. It’s like Shannon said, it’s a playground. There are so many different fun elements and cool things, and then sessions in the clinics and in the TechTalk Stage. This year, Dahlia has put together a tech pitch type of a session, kind of [a la 00:38:59] Shark Tankish with different tech providers, kind of putting together and delivering a pitch on their tools to a panel of judges. That’s a different element this year, but Tech Central is definitely something to check out.

Brandt: Very nice. Sorry. Dahlia heads up Tech Central. What about the Learning Lab? What can you tell us about that?

Carrie: The Learning Lab at the Austin Convention Center is really spread out in terms of the different floors of the event. Really, the Learning Lab is different areas that focus on content in terms of design, wellness. There’s a social media command center that links back to Tech Central as you can see behind the scenes, kind of what’s happening in terms of PCMA’s social media presence for Convening Leaders. There’s also a content development best practices lab which is an area where there’s interactive touch screens that each day, twice a day, the content changes, and it really focuses on speaker or content curation best practices, committee management, and speaker development, and there’s really great downloadable resources on those touch screens.

Shannon: Cool.

Carrie: There’s an area called the ‘Experience Insights Lab’, and it’s powered by Freeman, and you get to go in and go through and experience to learn more about event strategy and design and how you can enhance the experience of your attendees whether it’s through your educational offerings and what you can use in your sessions and to see how we work with our speakers, and it’s our speaker lab area where you can see that behind the scenes. It’s just a lot of interactive different touchpoints and kind of at your own pace content. Brain Dates as I mentioned is part of the Learning Lab experience, so that will be something that you definitely can’t miss.

Brandt: All right. We want to remind everybody, if you guys have a question for Carrie or Shannon, please be sure to punch them in there in GoToWebinar or you can tweet to the #EventIcons. That’s one of the convenient things of having the hashtag in the name of your show is that there’s no confusion about what hashtag you’re supposed to use. Feel free to shoot us something on Twitter. Alex will be able to forward it to us and make sure that we’re getting it and getting those questions on.

We do have a question coming in for Twitter that “If we wanted to follow PCMA Convening Leaders on social media, what hashtag would we be following? Will there be social media contests?”

Carrie: It’s #PCMACO, and we have a Facebook page and … See, this is why I need to have my marketing folks on here to ask this on the app. If you’re participating in the event and you download the app, there’s an area where you can access all the different PCMA handles or everything on social media, so there’s a couple of different ways to access that.

Brandt: Do we know if there’ll be contests?

Carrie: Alex, is it –

Brandt: Blink twice if you think there’s going to be.

Shannon: In my experience, there has been. The vendors are always not so on getting people involved in social and impacting people to have those conversations, so even if it’s not through PCMACO, it might be through the vendors.

Carrie: It’s true.

Brandt: Okay. We have to start winding down. I told you this hour goes fast. It’s unbelievable.

Carrie: Yes.

Brandt: I think we’ve learned a fair amount about Convening Leaders. I have to admit, like I said, I’ve always heard good things and it certainly sounds like it’s not going to disappoint, so –

Shannon: Are you going to sign up?

Brandt: It’s a little late at this point.

Carrie: Right.

Brandt: I don’t know that the flight must cost unofficial at this point.

Carrie: Nashville in 2018. Yeah.

Brandt: Nashville 2018. Okay. Nashville is a good town. I will have to make a note of that. Yeah.

Everybody, check it out. If you can’t, some of these sessions are going to be livestream. Is that correct?

Carrie: Yes. That’s what we call our Convening Leaders Live, and so there’s our main stage sessions. There’s also interviews in our Hybrid MashUp Studio in between sessions, and that’s speakers and different industry thought leaders that they’re going to be interviewing in the MashUp Studio. Only the virtual audience gets to see those, so that’s a exclusive experience for that remote audience. Then, during the session time slots, it’s two sessions time slots to choose from. Then, at the end of each day, there’s typically a virtual happy hour, so you can network and engage with the other participants. Like I mentioned before, it’s … Last year, we had I believe close to 1,500 participants, and it’s a really interactive chat during the sessions and it’s really engaging and it’s a pretty lively group, so if you can’t make it, Brandt to Austin, maybe you should check out the … 

Brandt: You had me at happy hour.

Carrie: Exactly. Maybe you should check out Convening Leaders through our digital event.

Brandt: It sounds like our U.K. friend has already signed up for the livestream, so they’re going to be joining you guys there as well.

Carrie: Wonderful.

Brandt: Yeah. If you’re going to be in the Austin area January eighth to 11th, sounds like you should definitely check it out. I’m assuming tickets are still available?

Carrie: Yes. This year.

Brandt: All right. Let’s leave that part of the discussion and get into our closers here. Shannon, where do you see yourself as you progress? Are you sticking around with PCMA? Where do you want to do as you move forward with the association? Where do you see yourself going with PCMA, and where do you see PCMA going as it moves into the future?

Shannon: For sure. I definitely see it evolving. Where I’d love to see there’d be a little bit more focus is pulling in some of our younger folks. Some other groups are definitely doing a great job and I would hate to see my generation not have the same opportunities. I tell everybody I meet at stuff about this, and they definitely are listening.

They’re hearing, and there are some strategies going on, and definitely one of those proud supporters where I would love to see myself going is really just continuing to be involved. There’s so many opportunities for me to learn and contribute, so I’d love to be a part of some other committees. I was the Chair this year, and so that was a really, really great learning and leadership opportunity, and eventually, I’d love to contribute from the board level or executive board level for headquarters. That would be awesome.

Brandt: I know a lot of event and associations in general are struggling with that groups. Organizations of all kind are struggling with that, “How do we get new members in, and then how do we keep them engaged and keep them involved?” Carrie, is there anything that you can say about the future PCMA and where it’s going? I don’t want to put you too much on the spot, but what are you guys doing to try and attract new members, keep them, and where’s the future?

Carrie: It’s really thinking about how people consume content around the world, and so we’re putting more energy and effort to looking at different markets and different target audiences within those markets to “How do they want to engage? How do they want to learn? How do they want to network? What type of experiences are they looking for?”, and just making more of an effort across the board with some of those different audience segments of if people want to engage and listen to podcasts, or webinars, or just face-to-face, just making sure those opportunities are available year-round and really making it more of a year-round comprehensive experience so it’s not just event to event. That’s really the direction that we’re going into, and as I said earlier, really looking more at outside of North America, markets and regions, and what I’m excited about from an education perspective is learning more about how different cultures and different groups want to learn and how they want to experience events and engage with content, and so making sure that each program is tailored to those different audiences and their expectations is something that will definitely be working more in the future, and I’m pretty excited about that.

Brandt: I think it’s interesting that a lot of what’s been written about the ‘Millennial generation’ and what they want out of events really applies to anybody and it’s really what most anybody wants to get out of events. Now, that being said like you say, there are important differences, culturally, age wise between groups and how they learn, and being able to figure out those differences and how best to move forward with them is obviously part of the trick. Okay. Wrapping down, winding down here, so I want to get to some of the fun questions that we have to ask on every episode of Event Icons because it’s a rule, and that would be … I’ll start with you, Shannon. If you could pick only one, what is your one tip you have for event planners?

Shannon: Don’t be afraid of vendors.

Brandt: I don’t know that I’ve got to … Sorry. I didn’t meant to stomp on you. What?

Shannon: Don’t be afraid of your vendors. They are your partners in success and if you treat them as such, not only will they have your back, but they’ll also be able to give you really good tips and tricks and ensure you’re successful because they have a stake in your gain.

Brandt: As an old audio/visual guy, I can’t agree with that more because when you get those adverse relationships between vendors and planners, it’s just night and day compared to ones where you’re seen as a partner and you’re working together to make a better event, and in the end, it’s the partnerships that always work better, so I couldn’t agree more with that. Carrie, how about you? What’s the one tip that you have?

Shannon: If I can, can I ask?

Carrie: Go on.

Brandt: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Shannon: Sorry.

Brandt: No.

Shannon: I already started. In all of what Carrie was focused on in the PCMA conversation, there was an underlying conversation on education. Vendors can provide that education 365 days of the year, past year event, I mean in the past PCMA events or whoever else associations events, and they can reinforce those good habits and those successful tips to get you to the finish line, and when you treat somebody as such because at the end of the day, we’re people. When you treat people with respect, it’s a partnership.

Brandt: Stay tuned for our coming episode, How To Save a Shit-Ton On AV #Event episode … No. That is coming down the pipe. Carrie, how about you?

Carrie: It’s more of an overall thing to be mindful of. It’s just having a solid understanding what your organization’s goals and objectives are and how your events fit into that, especially if you want to get to a place in your organization where you’re at a high level and you want to get that seat at the table and be recognized and have your events recognized is really crucial to your organization and of a value. It’s just really as you’re networking, as you’re looking at what types of sessions to go to, think about the strategy. Think about the big picture. How do you fit into that and what are some of the pieces or tools that are missing for you to get to that place, and just really keep thinking at a high level and how you can add value to your organization on a regular basis is something that’s really important. I don’t know how many people do that, but just that’s an ongoing tip.

Shannon: You know what? In all of the sessions that I speak at, that is definitely one of the first points that I cover. Often, people don’t understand why they are doing the events. It’s basically what we’ve been doing this for years.

Carrie: Yeah.

Shannon: Let’s peel that back and right now, we’re seeing definitely a shift in the industry where planners so to say are asked to be a lot more strategic. They’re being asked to be marketing managers. That’s definitely not something they went to school for. They know the logistic side. Guess what?

Now, you have to be strategic, and then how does it link back to your sales and marketing efforts as well, and how does that link back to the overall organization even if you are an association? How does that affect your members? Asking these questions and pushing the envelope I would say, that’s an excellent one point to give to all of our partners.

Brandt: It’s been a really nice shift to see in the industry people taking more time to focus on the goals of the event and the whys of the event, and really adding that and making that part of the planning process and not just, “Yeah. Like you say, we do it every year, so we got to do it every year. First, Bob gets up, and he welcomes everybody, and now we do the financial update, and that’s it.” You can tell I do a lot of corporate meetings, so absolutely.

Carrie: Yeah.

Brandt: All right. Now, here’s the one that you’ve all been waiting for. Shannon, do you have any new and cool resources to share with the group, websites, blogs, books, gadgets? It does not have to be technical in nature. Some of the best ones that have been given so far actually not technical in nature, so what have you got for us?

Shannon: I always have something exciting to share.

Carrie: She’s going to have good tips, and I may not have one right now. 

Shannon: The first is this website/software that’s now enabled me to be a graphic designer, and if you know anything about me, I’m definitely not that person, so For anyone who wants to have those Pinterest worthy events with all those cute details like stationary programs, gift-wrapping, whatever it may be in your personal or your home life, What is so amazing about Canva is it’s free, extremely easy to use with a drag and drop interface, and almost everything is templatized, so I don’t have to be a designer at all. I just pick which design I like and basically change the words on it. I really, really love that one.

They’re for all the people who are traveling in our industry which is probably all of us. There’s this really, really amazing new app called ‘Hopper’, and basically … Has anyone heard of this?

Brandt: Nope.

Shannon: Okay. Hopper is an app where basically it takes your travel itinerary. For example, if you’re going to Convening Leaders, Brandt, and it monitors exactly the best time to purchase, so it’ll send you alerts when it’s high or when it’s predicted to drop and when it drops to its best possible price based on the algorithm of the trend that it sees. It sends you an alert, and then you could just press ‘Book’ right there. That’s really, really a fine one.

Then, my last one, I recently got very, very obsessed into slow cooking, so for anybody who doesn’t have any time but also wants delicious food and is tired of eating out, get yourself a Slow Cooker and just get yourself a Slow Cooker Recipe book. I’m old school. I want to feel the pages and see the recipes. Dump it in at night. Dump it in in the morning. Come back, and you have food for days and you have amazing recipes that are super, super easy to make.

Brandt: Very good. Very good. I’ll tack on to Hopper that Google Trips has expanded on that as well.

Carrie: Yeah.

Brandt: Actually not the app, but if you go into the website and start messing around with their flight options, you can do some pretty amazing like if I wanted the shortest, fastest, cheapest trip to Vegas in December, and you could just start looking at all of the various options. You can narrow it down by airline, by which airline team that it’s on. I got really sucked into that one day just looking because I’m 1,700 miles short on my next award level, so I was trying to see, “Is there literally a flight that I could just go hang out in the airport lounge for an hour, and then come back?”, so I got really sucked into that, so yeah, in addition to Hopper. I’ll just check Hopper out, and then lastly, there was Yeah?

Shannon: If I could give you a rebuttal to that one, I also play around with that one, as well as Hipmunk.

Brandt: Yeah. Yeah.

Shannon: Google Flight is perfect for a bird’s-eye view to look at any day in all of the variety of prices basically all around the world. You could figure out where you want to go, so I love that, but they are more expensive than Hipmunk and Hopper.

Brandt: Interesting. Interesting. I did not knew that. What I love about Hipmunk is that it’s got the option to sort by pain factor.

Shannon: Agony.

Brandt: How awful. How awful. Agony factor. How awful is the flight. Okay. We got to start wrapping it up.

Carrie, what about you? Have you got a new and cool resource? Remember, it doesn’t have to be tech. What are you liking right now? What’s working for you?

Carrie: Look. We’re almost out of time now.

Brandt: Gee, look at the time.

Carrie: Look at the time. I think because I’m in copywriting education brain mode, one of the things that I have access to that’s really helpful is just a tool that’s just a link. It’s from the Advanced Marketing Institute. It’s a headline analyzer. You can type in your title or if you’re writing an article or a session.

You can type in the title and the audience or type it’s for, and then it gives you a percentage. If it’s a low on the percentage side, it’s not as stimulating enough for the audience. It lets you know, “Okay. This is boring. You need to kick it up a few notches”, and so I use it.

I share it with my team, and it calculates the emotional marketing value, score of what you put in, so it allows you to say, “Okay. Do I need to make this more interesting and captivating?” It is a useful tool to have, so that’s one of my go-tos that we’ve been using for this event and others.

Shannon: On that topic, if you’re into email marketing, there’s this website called ‘’. It basically does the exact same thing and gives you a percentage and a score and it tells you the reasons why you’re not good basically.

Carrie: Yeah.

Shannon: That might be one you guys might like.

Brandt: Lots and lots of emoji. That’s what I heard really works. Having lots of emoji in your subject line really gets people to open it.

Shannon: You know what?

Brandt: All right, guys. We have to … What’s that?

Shannon: In your next email, if it doesn’t have all emojis, I’m not opening it.

Carrie: Right.

Brandt: Yeah. All right. Guys, we got to wrap it up there. Our hour is up. I want to give you guys an opportunity. Carrie is the Senior Program Manager of PCMA. Carrie, where can people find out more about you or more about PCMA?

Carrie: You can go to You can also go to and check out the schedule. If you aren’t registered and still want to participate, you can get information on how to register for the Convening Leaders Hybrid. If you are in Asia, hopefully some folks will be tuning into this and you can on our website get information on how to access our delayed broadcast from Asia for Convening Leaders.

Brandt: Very good, so we don’t have to deal with lunch breaks that wind up in the middle of the night or anything like that?

Carrie: Exactly.

Brandt: All right. Shannon DeSouza is the Director of Sales & Industry Relations for Attendease. Shannon, where can people find out more about you?

Shannon: Find me on LinkedIn. That’s probably the easiest.

Brandt: Fantastic. We want to thank everybody for tuning into this episode of Event Icons. Remember, you can always tell us what you like and what you don’t like on #EventIcons on Twitter, and we hope to find out more from more Event Icons as we move on. I don’t really know if there’s any closing words that I need to say, but I do have some wonderful closing music, so thanks again everybody for joining us.

Carrie: Thank you.

Shannon: Bye.

Carrie: Happy New Year.

Will Curran

Author Will Curran

Information junkie, energetic, and work-a-holic are just some of the words we can use to describe Will Curran. Aside from spending 20 out of 24 hours a day working as the Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, you can catch Will ordering a chai latte or watching The Flash with his cats. He is also well known for his love of all things pretzels.

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