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Event leadership | 26 January 2022

PCMA 2022: What We Learned About the State of the Events Industry

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett

From January 9-12, 2022, members of the Bizzabo events team hit Las Vegas for PCMA Convening Leaders, a flagship event focused on education and networking. In this article, we’ll share some of what we learned.

Appropriately, the theme of PCMA Convening Leaders was “Where to next?” and the event focused on three Cs: community, content, and commerce. In addition to the highly interactive in-person event, PCMA also offered a virtual option, which included the keynotes and the ability to participate, connect, and interact from anywhere in the world. For example, virtual attendees have access to the following:

  • Live interviews with thought leaders
  • Monitored discussions on industry hot topics and small group chats
  • Educational sessions available on demand within 24 hours and for 60 days post-event
  • Behind-the-scenes exploration of the making of PCMA Convening Leaders 2022

According to Sherrif Karamat, CEO of PCMA, 2,300 people attended the event in Las Vegas and 600 attended virtually. For those who were worried about the spread of the Omicron variant at such a large event, the good news is that, as of January 25, only 96 positive COVID-19 cases (4% of attendees) had been reported to PCMA — all with mild symptoms. Here are some other attendee numbers worth mentioning: 

  • 47% have 20+ years of industry experience
  • 10% are CEOs 
  • 10% hold positions in the C-suite
  • 10% hold upper-level management positions
  • 29% hold director-level positions

Now let’s dive into some major takeaways from PCMA Convening Leaders 2022. 

5 Hot Takes from PCMA Convening Leaders

You’ve heard us talk about many of these points before, including in our predictions for 2022 and beyond, but these bear repeating: 

  1. Hybrid is working. It’s working so well, in fact, that hybrid events are here to stay
  2. Health and safety protocols and policies are and will continue to be top priorities — even when we get to a post-COVID reality.
  3. Attendees are more meticulous than ever about what events they attend, so you have to prove value and purpose to attract participants.  
  4. Climate change is real and will impact the events industry in a big way. With a return to in-person events, sustainability will become a hotter topic.
  5. Attendees expect organizations to include a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy and plan in their event strategies.

Now, let’s look at some other key takeaways and what they mean for the events industry in 2022. 

Building Community Is More Important Than Ever

Event professionals know how important it is to build community, but are we doing enough to foster and nurture attendee communities? It’s easy enough to engage attendees on the day of, but if you’re not engaging your community before and after the event — and throughout the year between events — it’s time to reevaluate your strategy. 

Gone are the days when attendees would show up to an event and go through the motions of half-listening to sessions while working, hitting the tradeshow floor for swag, grabbing a quick happy hour drink, and then heading back to the hotel to binge Netflix. Today, attendees crave purpose alongside engagement. They want to feel like they’re part of something special and bigger than themselves, and this is true throughout the year — not just at the event itself. 

“The key to happiness is the number of meaningful relationships you have in life.” 

Scott Galloway
Bestselling Author and Professor, NYU

Here are some takeaways we picked up from PCMA that will help keep attendees connected and engaged:

  • Give attendees a voice. What do they want to see and experience at your event? Ask them! The best way to understand what your audience expects is to ask them before, during, and after the event. 
  • Focus on in-session interactions. Creating powerful brand activations outside of sessions is easy enough, but learning how to engage your audience during educational sessions is an art worth mastering. Although some attendees want to sit back and listen, others want to be a part of the conversation in a more interactive way. Mix up session types so that some are classically passive and others are interactive, and be sure to let attendees know on the agenda what type of session they’re getting into so they can be prepared. 
  • Prioritize a sense of meaning. Instead of pushing attendees to hop from session to session, why not offer wellness or giving opportunities? Brand activations that engage every one of the senses and play to the mind and body are a great way to build a deeper sense of connection. Think morning yoga, meditation, or charitable group activities. 
  • Level up networking. Happy hours, networking by region, opening and closing networking parties … you name it, PCMA offered it. Whether someone is happy where they are or thinking about the next opportunity, one of the biggest reasons people love attending events is to network. The more networking opportunities you can offer, the better.
  • Let them work. Most attendees will be working while they’re at your event, so why not give them the space to be as productive and focused as possible? Most events have a press lounge, but for non-press attendees, create a “work lounge” that sets event attendees up for success and lets them take urgent calls privately and easily. Also? A work lounge offers a great sponsorship opportunity.
photograph of a work lounge at PCMA 2022 photograph of a work lounge at PCMA 2022

Lastly, don’t forget about brand activations outside of sessions and special events. Create spaces that let attendees engage with each other or with sponsors. The more opportunities you can offer to let attendees slow down or speed up, the more connected to your event they’ll feel. At PCMA, there were some clever activations: 

  • A giant, collaborative paint-by-number activity
  • A 360° photo booth
  • The opportunity to create your own signature scent
  • A giant swing set
  • A wall where attendees could write a positive intention for 2022


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If You Build It, They Will Come

To knock your next event out of the park, start by building an events team that inspires you and is crazy enough to execute your wildest and most ambitious ideas. Then, take a deep look at who your brand is, what your audience thinks about your brand, and what your audience expects from your brand. Next, to ensure a seamless event experience, make sure your wild ideas mesh well with who your brand is and what your audience wants. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to bring something new into existence — whether a new session type, approach to engagement, solution to a problem, event management software, or something else entirely. Be ambitious and innovative, but be thoughtful and intentional about your event strategy. The last thing you want at your next event is to leave attendees feeling confused about what your engagement opportunities or sessions have to do with the event’s theme or goals. 

Learning To Be a Leader in the Events Industry

Event professionals spend so much time ideating, planning, and executing memorable events that they often forget to pursue professional growth and development. But to grow and adapt to the ever-changing events industry, it’s more important than ever for event planners and organizers to step outside their comfort zones and attend events themselves. 

Whether attending an event built for event professionals or one that’s completely outside the events industry, you can learn so much about how to achieve event success. Not sure where to start? Check out our directory of conferences for event planners

Editor’s note: Melanie Reid, Senior Event Experience Manager, and Sarah North, Director of Event Experiences, contributed to this article.

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