After the meetings industry has navigated a few of the roughest years in its history, PCMA’s Convening Leaders, held Jan. 8-11 in San Diego, is perhaps heralding good things to come, at least if you take into account an attendance level that may set a record for the association.

“We have a record number of planners for this meeting,” said PCMA President and CEO Deborah Sexton. “We’re fairly certain we’re going to set a record for total attendees as well.”

PCMA will release the official attendance numbers 10 days after the event. The attendance for last year’s conference, which was held in the traditionally strong-draw destination of Las Vegas, was 3,743.

“There are more professionals at this conference than in the history of PCMA,” Sexton emphasized.

The association’s membership retention rate was also strong, according to Sexton.

“At this point we have a record number of members,” she said. “An 83 percent retention rate, especially in a down economy, says a lot about the education and value that we provide to the industry.”

Sexton said PCMA continued in its mission of taking calculated risks with the program by mixing up the length of education sessions—offering classes of 30, 60, 75 and 90 minutes in duration—juggling the timing of general session addresses and offering a “TED-light-style” session on the last day of the event.

“We want to continue to take risks so our members can see the results immediately,” Sexton said, “to see if they can incorporate them into their events.”

The virtual broadcast of various Convening Leaders sessions—which was also seen as a risk when it was launched during last year’s conference—is also trending good in terms of attendees, according to Sexton, who said she expects the total number of virtual participants to be several thousand, when factoring the number of people using the same computer portal to view the content.

In other PCMA Convening Leaders news, meetings and exhibition industry pioneer Donald S. Freeman Jr. was recognized with a PCMA Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to both PCMA and the meetings and exhibition industry. It was only the third time in the association’s history that a Lifetime Achievement Award was given.