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PCMA Ignites Ideas at Convening Leaders 2023

photo from a meeting room at PCMA's Convening Leaders 2023

COLUMBUS, OhioPCMA’s Convening Leaders 2023 (CL23) featured a star-studded lineup of speakers, performers and education panels focused on the theme, “Ignite Your Path.” Held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center from Jan. 8-11, CL23 drew 3,300 attendees over the span of four days for peer-to-peer networking, collaborating, exchanging ideas and exploring new trends, all with an eye on how to better serve organizations’ audiences and stakeholders.  

This week is about not looking back. It is about blazing a trail forward for all of us,” PCMA and CEMA President and CEO Sherrif Karamat said in his opening statement.  

The conference kicked off with a presentation, “Embrace Uncertainty to Reach Your Full Potential,” featuring Thomas Brag & Ammar Kandil of the hit YouTube channel Yes Theory. The duo shared insights into their success based on the motto “Seek Discomfort,” to inspire the audience to do the same. “We believe that authentic action, whatever is authentic to you, is the most effective way to change the world.” 

Following Yes Theory, world-renowned athlete Allyson Felix, who has won 11 Olympic Medals — the most U.S. Track & Field Olympic medals of all time — offered her insights into the pursuit of major goals and reaching one’s full potential. “We all want to do work that has purpose. We all want to get to that end result and see that success, but just don’t miss the journey along the way. The moments in between are where you grow.” Felix also focused on taking chances, saying from experience that nothing changes with silence. “You can use your voice, even if it shakes.” 

Focusing on a similar theme of challenging ourselves to grow, Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, bestselling author of the book “Think Again,” and host of the podcast WorkLife, presented his keynote “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.” Grant championed the idea of developing our own challenge networks by bringing more “disagreeable givers” into our lives and building cultures that welcome diverse perspectives and honest feedback. 

Karamat also announced at a CL23 session PCMA’s new acquisitions, alliances and partnerships at CL23. PCMA acquired the Event Leadership Institute, adding to its education portfolio, and the Event Marketing Association – UK. PCMA is also partnering with the American Geophysical Union to help design and promote sustainable events, and made an alliance with the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP) to elevate inclusivity at events. NCBMP is a co-locating partner of the 2023 Business Events Industry Week. 

Star Power 

Day two at CL23 featured an insightful keynote panel “The 2023 Outlook for the Business Events & Hospitality Industries,” moderated by Carly Fiorina, Founder and Chairman Carly Fiorina Enterprises.

The panel, which also included Chris Nassetta, CEO of Hilton Worldwide; Ben Erwin, President and CEO of Encore; and Matthew Slaughter, Dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, set a “hyper” optimistic tone looking at the future of the business travel and events industry, with three key words for the success of the future: agility, flexibility and adaptability. 

Erwin reminded the attendees of the incredible opportunity the industry now has to promote the power of events, while Slaughter stressed that while the flow of people stopped during the pandemic, what continues to explode is the exchange of ideas.  

Other sessions over the three days focused on key topics such as sustainability and DEI, including the DEI presentation by Kevin Clayton, Senior Vice President, Head of Social Impact and Equity for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, who emphasized the importance of commitment, accountability and measurement to understand the impact of DEI on a business and the communities it serves.  

Another popular session “Are You Ready to Scale Your Event?” featured speakers Ajay Bhojwani, MCI Middle East and Shawn Pierce, MCI Group, who offered case studies on strategic scaling that consider resources, infrastructure and the event environment.  

CL23 attendees could also share ideas in a series of Conversation Starters, such as “How the Negotiating Stakes Have Changed” and “Developing Meaningful Hybrid Workplace Relationships.” 

Spotlight on Networking 

The main show floor, The District, featured activations from a variety of destination CVBs and other industry organizations, as well as happy-hour gatherings. There were also stages for presentations including the Encore stage, which hosted tech-related options, and People and Planet for sustainability learning.  

Other networking highlights included the opening reception at the convention center — “411” on Columbus as we celebrate 4 Seasons, 1 Year, in 1 Amazing City! — a colorful night featuring local musicians, aerialists and other performers, with a spotlight on Columbus’ four-season appeal. Party with a Purpose, sponsored by GES, at KEMBA Live! featured 80s cover band The Spazmatics, while closing night concert with John Legend at Nationwide Arena topped off the entertainment.  

Prior to the official opening day, attendees had the opportunity to join a variety of tours of Columbus, including a city tour with stops and the 32-room Book Loft in German Village, and a tour of Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, with glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly throughout the botanical displays. PCMA also partnered with the YMCA of Central Ohio at its Hospitality Helping Hands, creating household necessity kits for vulnerable families in the community.  

The final keynote, “Restore Motivation, Battle Burnout, and Jumpstart Your 2023”, was delivered by Daniel Pink, New York Times bestselling author of “The Power of Regret, Drive, and To Sell is Human.” Pink shared simple science-based tips to replenish people’s drive, motivate their teams and sharpen decisions.  “I want to give you today five very practical, very specific, very concrete evidence-based ways to do some small things to help you find your footing in this uneasy world,” Pink said. 

His tips included subtracting rather than adding tasks to achieve goals, saying, “I would like you to do this. In 2023, create a to not to do list.” Other tips included listing three ways you made progress every day, take a 15-minute break outdoors sans smartphone at least three times a week and each week have two fewer conversations about how and two ore about “why.”  

Outgoing PCMA Chair Charles Starks also announced that the organization had invested over $610,000 back into the industry, including $240,000 in funding for 241 scholarships, more than $300,000 and research and educational projects and courses and $60,000 towards social impact initiatives. 

 Reach Sherrif Karamat at

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