Association Meetings

January 2018

Departing Thoughts From PCMA's CEO


Outgoing Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) President and CEO Deborah Sexton shared her thoughts—positive and negative—on PCMA's business strategy and the meetings industry as a whole with media personnel during a press conference at PCMA Convening Leaders 2018 in Nashville.

“On the somewhat negative side, I don’t think we’re as innovative and as quick to make change as we need to be, so that bothers me,” Sexton said in reference to PCMA’s efforts to inspire planners. “I think we tend to be looking at today as opposed to the future and I really think as an industry that’s got to change because things are changing rapidly around us.”

Sexton went on to cite the association’s development and promotion of its digital event strategist certification course through the PCMA Digital Experience Institute as an educational highpoint and an example of how PCMA and planners need to think more like marketers when promoting their events.

“Less than 20% of our members’ organizations truly have a comprehensive engagement strategy and that is absolutely critical today and I believe our digital event strategist certification can help drive that [effort forward],” she said. “Events are not an engagement strategy, they are a component, they help to engage, but they have to be a part of, not the engagement strategy for an organization, period.”

Sexton said that PCMA learned from previous mistakes in promoting its own events.

“It took us a long time to even embrace digital and we have proven that our digital [effort] drives member attendance at our events and I believe that would be the case at many other events,” she said. “And if it doesn’t, it drives your brand to people that can’t attend and why would you not want [that]?”

Finally, she addressed the ongoing struggles of the industry to promote its worth to outsiders.

“We as an industry talk to ourselves beautifully,” Sexton said. “In fact, we’ve got some gorgeous lines down there, but it’s not resonating outside of our industry and we gotta get outside of our industry and start talking about the value of what we do to an audience that doesn’t understand us, not ourselves.

“And so I’m hoping that Meetings Mean Business and many other initiatives will help with that, but it still needs some help—and last but not least—this is a global industry, not a North American industry.”

Sexton previously announced she was stepping down from her role as president and CEO at PCMA in order to pursue her own consulting business and other opportunities. PCMA COO Sherrif Karamat was announced as her replacement in December 2017 and his first day in the new role is Jan. 19, 2018.

Check out the video below for more industry commentary from Sexton.

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