The PCMA Masters Series program held at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel last Thursday offered a terrific assortment of big-sky and ground-level insights (some of which I tweeted throughout the event), but for me the grand unifying takeaway was the fact that you can’t separate a meeting from its parent organization, and vice versa. An obvious conclusion, perhaps, especially considering the topic was “Associations and Meetings of the Future: A Look Ahead to 2020,” but there it is.
The panel was moderated by Greg O’Dell, president and CEO of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority, and featured (picture above, left to right) Chris Brown, executive vice president of conventions and business operations for the National Association of Broadcasters; Abe Eshkenazi, CAE, CEO of APICS The Association for Operations Management; Karen Hackett, CAE, CEO of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; Scott Hunt, executive director and CEO of the Endocrine Society; and Peter O’Neil, CAE, executive director of the American Industrial Hygiene Association. As this distinguished group of association executives speculated first on the issues that would face their organizations and then those that would face their meetings in the short- to mid-term view, they couldn’t talk about one without referencing the other. Or, even when they were talking about one, their comments had relevance for the other.
When Brown, for example, said, “We’re all getting used to being always connected, always on, always available,” and “Associations going forward are going to have to be more nimble” — he was talking about how associations need to figure out how to serve their members in the “do-more-with-less” environment of the last several years. But he very easily could have been talking directly to meeting professionals. Ditto Hunt when he noted that associations have a growing role to play in helping members decide “what is important and what isn’t. … How do you stake out your space when they are getting 120 e-mails a day and clicking right through them like a shotgun?”
The last word goes to O’Neil, who, reflecting on the oft-heard death knell for the annual meeting, said: “The annual meeting is dead. Long live the annual meeting.” He added: “What can be better, different, or more for our meeting? … How can we make that experience live the whole year?”