PCMA Convening Leaders 2024

PCMA Convening Leaders 2024

Article published 29/01/2024

PCMA Convening Leaders marks the start of the events calendar for many, including us at VisitScotland Business Events. This year's event took place in San Diego, California (7 - 10 January) and united more than 5,000 event professionals in-person and virtually, making it the largest gathering for the association to date.

Rory Archibald, our Senior Business Events Manager, discusses the benefits of attending and his key takeouts from this year's gathering.

About Convening Leaders

PCMA Convening Leaders is the association's flagship education and networking event and is attended by thousands of business events professionals and community leaders from around the world.

For me, Convening Leaders is the best way to start the new year, listening to inspiring speakers and keynotes, networking with industry colleagues and a chance to promote the message of Scotland to a global audience.

This year's event featured keynotes from former US President, Bill Clinton; 67th Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton; neuroscientist and author, Mayim Bialik; former Chief Business Officer of Google, Mo Gawdat; author, entrepreneur and speaker at AI Authority, Nina Schick; and innovation strategist and bestselling author, Shawn Kanungo.

AI at the forefront

A core topic this year was AI, with three keynotes on the main stage and breakout sessions reaffirming the importance of embracing this technology in work and our personal lives.

AI has the potential to transform our industry for the better and revolutionise how we meet in the future. Mo Gawdat, former Chief Business Officer of Google, kicked off the event with the message that AI 'is the biggest disruptor to humanity.'

This was echoed by innovation strategist, Shawn Kanungo, who took delegates through an energetic session discussing AI and encouraged us to think bolder. In his presentation, there was a slide that hit home which simply said, 'the most haunting words in business are we used to be the best.'

This was a huge wake up call to delegates and to the industry to ensure we continue to push to be better, and to change. Not just for Scotland, but for the sector as a whole. We want to be the best industry, one that is the nexus of all others, that has the power to create societal change and champion the protection of our planet.

Current political landscape

This year PCMA invited former US President, Bill Clinton and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton to speak at Convening Leaders.

In his session, President Clinton discussed the current political landscape, seen as 'victimisation politics' where rather than looking at how we can tackle the issue we look for someone to blame whether that's talking about climate change, equity or conflicts. His message was to move to 'empowerment politics' where we are responsible for taking action and creating necessary change for a better future.

This is a message we can all use, not just in politics, but in our working lives and in our industry. I took from this that we can't wait for change to happen, and that we must empower ourselves to be that change.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared various stories from her political career. It was interesting to hear how she tackled challenges and confrontation and took the initiative to understand all sides of the argument and addressed and approached all issues equally. We can often be blinkered into only looking at our own perspective when we should open ourselves up to listening and understanding all viewpoints. In doing so, it can lead to better decision making and conclusions.

Wellbeing and balance

Wellbeing remains a key focus for our sector and continues to be high on the agenda for organisers and delegates when attending events.

I joined a session with neuroscientist and author, Mayim Bialik, who took us through a discussion on wellbeing and balance. We see a lot of discussion on having a work/life balance, but how seriously do we take this?

Our industry can be intense, with long hours and full of critical decision-making demands that create pressure. A key point that I will take away from this session is that we need to find a way to make our industry kinder to our people, which will create a more attractive industry to the next generation of business events professionals.

PCMA Convening Leaders was an excellent event to kickstart my year and I applaud PCMA for bringing together more than 4,000 people - it's the pinnacle of creating innovation and change.

We must ensure that climate change, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) remain our core focus to move forward as an industry that is part of the solution. In his session, Mo Gawdat said that "AI is the biggest disruptor to humanity". I agree but I'd say that environmental and social sustainability are equally so, after all what good is AI if there is no humanity to disrupt?