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PCMA Convening Leaders 2024 Sets Attendance Record; New Programs Launched

Sherrif Karamat on stage at PCMA Convening Leaders 2024

PCMA Convening Leaders (CL) 2024 got off to an auspicious start by setting an attendance record for the event, with news that approximately 5,000 attendees signed up to participate in the program held January 7-10 at the San Diego Convention Center.

Spikes in attendance have also been experienced by other PCMA in-person events.

“I've often said that—and I don’t say this lightly—that the pandemic didn't happen to us, it happened for us,” Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO of PCMA, told the audience during the opening general session of PCMA Convening Leaders. “The world discovered that, more than ever, we need face-to-face connections, and big business events truly are now proliferating. In 2023, we set participation records at EduCon, at CEMA Summit, at Convening EMEA. And right here in San Diego, with almost 5,000 registrants already, we are back beyond pre-pandemic levels. CL 2024 is our record attendance of all time.”

Karmat said the record attendance figure represented approximately 4,200 in-person attendees and about 700 who participated online.

Major factors in the attendance record may be attributed to featuring not one but two Clintons, President Bill and Secretary of State Hillary, during the second day opening general session, or perhaps the relatively balmy climate of San Diego in the depths of winter. Indeed, some sources said that registration spiked after the announcement of the Clintons as speakers.

PCMA Launches Two Major Events

In other PCMA news, Karamat announced the association has appointed its first global head of sustainability and has partnered with the 29-nation-strong Strategic Alliance of the National Convention Bureaux of Europe to launch a Sustainability and Climate Summit October 2-3 in Barcelona.

Karmat said the association is also launching a new Convening Latin in Bogota, Colombia, in the second quarter of 2025, with updates available in the coming few months.

“By 2025, we will be connecting with over 10,000 business event professionals at our live events on four continents alone,” Karamat said. “When you add in the people we engage with in courses, webinars, labs and chapter meetings, our global community exceeds 35,000.”

[Related: Marriott International, PCMA and CEMA Release ‘Guiding Principles in Experience Design’ Study]

Gevme founder and CEO Veemal Gungadin speaks about SPARK at PCMA Convening Leaders 2024
Gevme founder and CEO Veemal Gungadin speaks about SPARK at PCMA Convening Leaders 2024 

SPARK Adoption

Karamat said that PCMA’s recent partnership with technology company Gevme to develop the meetings- and events-specific generative AI productivity software program SPARK has garnered more than 5,000 business event organizers in more than 40 countries.

Gevme founder and CEO Veemal Gungadin told the audience that the AI program currently offers more than 100 tasks relevant to business events, with the next steps focused on SPARK moving beyond productivity to offer more real-time uses for attendees during events.

“We know that generative AI can help in terms of productivity,” Gungadin said. “The next question that we're asking ourselves is, can generative AI augment experiences at events? There are a few experiments that we're launching. The very first here is an AI concierge…trained on event data, destination data, venue [data], where you can ask general questions about the event, you can ask questions about the venue itself, you can ask questions about destinations. And today, this AI concierge is available on the PCMA mobile app.”

Gungadin said that SPARK can also generate event session takeaways in real time, allowing attendees to use a QR code to access summary takeaways from sessions that include a map of different concepts presented, with the ability to simultaneously translate the content into different languages.

[Related: An Introduction to PCMA’s AI Tool, Project SPARK]

Women’s Empowerment Study

Karamat and Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO of Australia’s BESydney, also detailed a new joint PCMA Foundation and BESydney survey studying the participation of women in the meetings and events industry, which discovered that while the industry is approximately 70% female and more than 85% female in the U.S., women represent only 20% of C-level positions such as CEO and chairs of boards.

“The World Economic Forum is saying it's going to take us 131 years for gender parity—we can't wait that long. We can do something now,” Lewis-Smith said. “I believe this report is actually our moonshot. I do think the action that we take today, as we gather our thoughts post-report, is to have an industry ‘champions of change’ coalition that can help us drive this change forward. I'd love to think 30% women CEOs and chairing boards by 2030 is a reasonable target.”

Read this next: PCMA Reveals Locations For Next Four Years of Convening Leaders

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Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.