There he was, a vision on stage. Hollywood dazzle meant the spotlights were unnecessary. I had seen his face forty foot high countless times, but it couldn’t prepare me for seeing his face forty feet away. He was there. He was dazzling. He was Matthew McConaughey.
My meeting with destiny happened earlier this year when I was selected as one of the “20 in Their Twenties” program by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and received a fully hosted trip to attend PCMA Convening Leaders in Austin, Texas.
“20 in Their Twenties” is supported by PCMA Education Foundation to recognize young professionals (29 years old or younger) in the meetings and events industry. Alongside this incredible opportunity, we were honoured on stage, given a one year PCMA membership and a free registration for the PCMA Education Conference in New York plus mentorship opportunities with the industry leaders.
After my years of attending conferences, trainings and seminars, I have never seen anything like PCMA Convening Leaders 2017. The conference was, how should I put it in a way that Mathew would? – Alright, alright, alright. Perhaps I am being bias because PCMA has given the 20 of us the VVIP treatment (5 star hotel, a bottle of wine in my room - come on) but PCMA Convening Leaders has exceeded and raised the bar on how much of a wow factor you can create in a conference.
We kicked off the conference with a surprise appearance by the man that definitely looked me in the eye during the plenary session where he spoke as a born and raised Texan himself. Convening Leaders this year was themed as Designing Collaboration and, as destination Bureau myself, I was amazed by the collaborative effort from each states that come in the conference to promote their destination through creative ways.
My favourite part of the whole conference would be the “Braindates” session; it is exceptionally useful for someone like me who is new to the region and a first timer to Convening Leaders. I think the name is pretty self-explanatory, it’s basically a match making tool to connect two individuals with similar expertise and the main goal is to network and share knowledge, maximizing your coffee break and your lunch time during the conference. Instead of standing around sipping coffee and munching on praline bacon, you can have meaningful discussion while coffee-sipping and bacon-munching. It is the perfect networking tool (although the praline bacon was pretty good).
Aside from inspiration and informative sessions during Convening Leaders, PCMA has also incorporated Tech Central, an arena where event tech vendors gathered to promote innovative new tools to the attendees and potential users. Some fresh ideas that I personally liked was the virtual reality tech that could be implemented for engineering conferences to showcase machinery dissected by parts.
As the only recipient from the Asia region, it was a great honour to be selected by the PCMA committee and the industry veterans. What surprised me was how encouraging my management are and how proud they are when I won the award. Bizevents Asia even published half a pager to congratulate me on the award next to Malaysia hosting the 55th ICCA Congress with the title “Another Proud Moment for Malaysia”.
There are moments during all this congratulatory noise where I find myself doubting whether I actually deserved the award. I had that thought after meeting the 19 other outstanding millennials who were also standing on stage with me to receive the award throughout the few days in Austin. Each one of them are young, passionate and astonishingly great in their job – I hope I try to do the same each day. This blog would go on for pages if I was to tell you how great each and one are, so you better just read it here.
PCMA is one of the few organizations that actually see the value in developing and recognizing young leaders in the meeting industry, and I consider myself lucky to be working with a Convention Bureau that shares the same value.
I’d strongly recommend everyone to participate for PCMA Convening Leaders next year. And for you lucky millennials in the meetings industry, if you are under 30 and you are passionate about the industry, submit your application for the “20 in Their Twenties” program, more info here.
Now to watch Interstellar… again.
Special thanks to PCMA.
Link to PCMA Convening Leaders.
Pictures credits to PCMA Convening Leaders and Jason Slaton.