The second annual Convening EMEA
conference, organised by PCMA, the association for professional convention managers, was held at Vienna’s Messe Wien Exhibition Congress Center. Holly Patrick reports.
Under the banner ‘Together we move forward’ hundreds of meeting professionals gathered in Vienna last week - the world’s most 'liveable' city according to one index - for a meeting which faced the challenges of the present with a view to safeguarding the future.
The omnichannel meeting, hosted by event emcee and
broadcaster David Meade, convened around 400 business event professionals in-person and online and, in one way or another, almost every session came back to the idea of sustainability.
The event itself was certified by the
Austrian Ecolabel for Green Meetings. Each delegate was given a travel pass to use on Vienna’s
trams, busses, metro, and suburban rail, which allowed delegates to explore the city in a relatively low-impact way.
Technology, sustainability and the future of meetings were
highlighted in futurist Gerd Leonhard’s
opening keynote on what meetings will look like in 10 years. He emphasised the need
for the industry to focus on sustainability, because 'two degrees of warming
will be tough on us, but four or five degrees of warming will result in 600
million climate refugees'.
The conversation carried on with a session on goals and
measurement – The key to delivering sustainable events. The panel first polled
the audience on what questions they wanted answering, and following a quick
show of hands, discussed the major sustainability threats, what sustainability
woes keep event professionals up at night and where to start your
organisation’s sustainability journey. Lisa VanRosendale, senior vice president
at Freeman and session panellist said, “Pick one thing and go for it. It could be something as simple as moving to using
sustainable materials or reusing your existing materials.”
Networking breaks, punctuated with Viennese snacks and free-flowing
coffee, allowed delegates to reconnect and discuss learnings from the content sessions.
Following lunch, Kenes Group CEO, Ori Lahav and AFEA Travel and Congress
Services CEO, Sissi Lygnou discussed budgeting in uncertain times and shed
light on how lead-times have changed, how to develop new risk module strategies
and how to apply practical hybrid event budgeting.
We have to move from awareness to ownership, let’s change our mindset from victims to changemakers.
The first day culminated in a Festival of Vienna dinner at
the Museum of Applied Arts where guests ogled the gallery’s permanent
‘Vienna 1900’ collection, starring works by Gustav Klimt and sampled Viennese
cuisine at the pop-up food market.
A half-day content programme on the second and final day covered
various topics, from attracting new audiences without ‘reinventing the wheel’ to
having difficult conversations. The latter, led by PCMA's '20 in their 20s', saw
the audience (optionally) blindfolded to eliminate visual unconscious bias,
while three presenters covered sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion,
and mental health. At the end of the presentations, the audience was asked to
discuss the challenges surrounding these topics and pledge action to tackle the
Following a discussion on the negative impact that sending and receiving
emails out of office hours has on our mental health, Mylene Gagnon, vice
president of sales and convention services at Business Events Montréal, pledged
to schedule emails to send during office hours, instead of emailing at any hour of they day. A small but impactful pledge.
Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO of PCMA and CEMA, closed
the conference with David Meade and guests in a final keynote session on the main
stage. Karamat noted that as meeting professionals, we need to start framing
things as “happening for us” instead of “happening to us”.
He added that Covid-19
was a wake-up call. “We need to stop talking and start acting," he said. "When something
happens, it shouldn’t be up to someone else to fix it. We have to move from
awareness to ownership, let’s change our mindset from victims to changemakers. He explained that we don’t need to “boil the whole ocean or
eat the whole elephant,” instead we need to do a bunch of little things because “little
things have an impact.”
Jamie Bennet added that the industry needs to act.
event can’t just be a talking shop. Now is the time to take action and we must
put into action all the things we’ve discussed during the event,” she said.
And just as one Convening EMEA event ended, organisers announced that the next edition will take place in Denmark at the Bella Centre Copenhagen between
20-22 September 2023.
Wonderful Copenhagen director, Kit Lykketoft, who was onstage
with Karamat for the closing keynote said: “We are excited to host PCMA
Convening EMEA next year as it is an event always rich on content and highly
engaged participants from all corners of our industry.”
A desire to travel led Holly Patrick to the business meetings and events world and she’s never looked back. Holly takes a particular interest in event sustainability and creating a diverse and inclusive industry. When she’s not working, she can be found rolling skating along Brighton seafront listening to an eclectic playlist, featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Sean Paul, and Arooj Aftab.