Conferences boast jam-packed opportunities for professionals and students to hear from industry leaders, discover upcoming trends and gain valuable networking connections, all while having fun. To kick off the new year, a group of Broad Spartans flew to San Francisco to attend the Professional Convention Management Association’s Convening Leaders Conference and seize these development opportunities.

“There was never a dull moment during these few days in San Francisco,” Ellen Cook, a senior in hospitality business and director of fundraising for MSU’s Meeting and Events Club, said. “I thoroughly enjoyed each speaker we saw on the main stage.”

MSU’s Meeting and Events Club, housed within the Hospitality Association of The School of Hospitality Business, is a student chapter of PCMA. The club has been sending members to attend the annual event since 2003.

Jordan Kelley, a junior in hospitality business and director of meetings for the club, shared that this was her second year attending the conference and it “never disappoints.”

“PCMA is an incredible organization that continually shapes the future leaders of the industry, and I am proud to be a part of the MSU chapter,” Kelley said. “I took away so much from this experience, but most of all it only made me more confident in my decision to pursue a career in the events industry!”

This year’s conference was themed “Reach,” to emphasize how attendees can “reach their personal and professional goals through innovative education, experiential activations and networking opportunities,” as explained on the event website. Some of the big-name speakers were Simon Sinek, author and motivational speaker; Bozoma Saint John, known for her role as Uber’s former chief brand officer; Gene Kranz, an iconic aerospace engineer and retired NASA flight director; and Condoleezza Rice, former United States Secretary of State.

For some students, engaging with these speakers was the highlight. Foressia Hood, a sophomore in hospitality business, shared that she was “exposed to people in different positions throughout the industry, from sales managers to senior event managers and everything in between…. I was also able to grow my network and learn skills that can only be gained outside the classroom.”

And for others, the content and themes presented throughout the conference were the focal point. Gabby Noble, a junior in hospitality business and director of membership, said she enjoyed learning about empathetic design. “It’s all about designing an event through the eyes of a guest,” she said. “You put yourself in their shoes and design it how you would want it to be if you were a guest. You want to have an empathetic connection with who you are designing for. This really spoke out to me and is something I could see myself enjoying.”

The Meeting and Events Club welcomes students of all majors interested in learning about planning and managing meetings and events to become members. To learn more, visit the club’s LinkedIn page.