Students in The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University traveled to Pittsburgh, PA from January 6-9, 2019 to attend the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) Convening Leaders annual conference. The conference was held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The overall theme of the conference was “Disrupt and Deliver.” The 17 students joined over 4,000 PCMA members from around the world who gathered to hear about the latest trends and technologies associated with convention management. All student attendees are members of the school’s PCMA student chapter, which was also named the 2019 Chapter of the Year by PCMA, nationwide. The MSU student chapter is advised by MiRan Kim, associate professor in the school. The PCMA student chapter will receive $1,000 from the PCMA Foundation to assist with educational, community service, and/or membership programs. The award is based on overall chapter leadership, academic excellence, community and campus involvement, and membership growth. Congratulations!
In addition, PCMA chapter president, Sarah Michelson (BA ’20), received a tuition scholarship directly from the PCMA Foundation. Michelson shared some of her memorable moments at the conference by noting one of her favorite sessions was “Transforming Experiences into a Positive Force for Change.” A quote from speaker Steve Pemberton was most memorable: “Look back on the runway of life and say you swung away.” Pemberton grew up in a difficult foster home, but by taking chances and (swinging away) he was able to rise above and attend Boston College, where he is now on the Board of Trustees. Michelson also enjoyed the sessions, PCMA and Marriott on the Future of Events and Trending Now Studio.
An interesting session some students attended discussed five important trends that could change the industry. The most interesting was the idea of “orchestrated serendipity” or the concept of “embracing the unexpected” to keep attendees engaged. The idea of intentionally canceling a breakout session to give attendees unexpected free time allows attendees to create new connections and break from the rigid structure of an event, and take time to process session content.
A session on tips for creating eye-popping event and brand content was enjoyable to junior, Bryn Nagel (BA ’20). Bryn mentions, “This session was BEYOND interesting. We learned how to edit content before or after events to showcase the hard work and dedication. An example of an app for invitations provides templates for easy adaptation and personalization for the consumer’s specific need.”
PCMA student chapter director of social media, Brooke Desormeaux, had strong takeaways she plans to use in the future, stating, “I wanted to learn more about social media and what has changed in the event planning industry. I attended several social media sessions and learned of new apps available for professionals to promote their business. One in particular allowed you to see your Instagram feed and notice which pictures go with your previous posts. It also has a pre-plan post where you can set a specific time and date to send.”
PCMA announced they signed an ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) to make a long-term commitment against human trafficking. Hayley Pegram (BA ’20) shared her views on that action, saying “PCMA encourages change and acceptance within the community and the world. This was very clear in many of the sessions during the conference. It was clear that the hospitality industry needs to be on the front line of acceptance and change.”
The students were excited for the opportunity to attend the conference and interact with professionals in the industry, and it was good to get to know other student chapters’ members. Sarah Minor (BA ’20) explains the impact the conference had on her growth as a student leader. “The most influential part of the conference was the opportunity to interact with members of the 20 under 20 professionals and discuss the breakout sessions we attended. It was interesting to have a discussion relative to what they found most important.”
Juniors Lizzie Rupinski (BA ’20) and Erin Dempsey (BA ’20) explained the impact Nadya Okamoto’s, Period Movement against menstruation poverty. Dempsey states, “She is only 20 years old and has impacted the lives of so many who cannot afford menstrual products. Along with helping the needy, she advocates through her program the importance of products being affordable and diminishing the uncomfortable stigma with menstruation. The speaker is my age – it is inspiring that she is so passionate about what she does.” Rupinski added, “Nadyha spoke about breaking the stigma and changing the conversation in our world today. I was also inspired and motivated to speak out about topics of conversation that are sometimes ignored. I learned and am now motivated to help make a difference in our world – Be the change you want to see!”
Shawn Gabriel (BA ’20) was heavily impacted by advocator and actor, Genna Davis. Gabriel says, “Her foundation’s motto is ‘if they can see it, they can be it.’ It pushes for equal representation in all industries. This opens the door to children’s imaginations on what they can be as they see more people like them in roles that inspire them.”
The Event Marketing Plan session discussed the importance of event and brand marketing before, during, and after the event. The amount of effort put into event marketing determines the excitement and willingness to be engaged. Claire Murray (BA ’20) mentions her most memorable point was, “Today the customers we serve often look to influencers within their industry to understand how to best participate. I learned how important the details are in planning, but also its marketing to ensure involvement.”