PCMA’s Gamble Pays Off in Las Vegas

ANDREA DOYLE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR
PCMA CL22 Forum Plaza - Opening Reception Aerial 01

LAS VEGAS – PCMA took a stand and went ahead with its Convening Leaders (CL22) conference — held January 9-12 at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas — with much success.

Health and safety was at the forefront, but as with any large gathering breakthrough cases are a reality. The organization sent out an email stating that as of January 11 there were five positive COVID-19 cases, and those individuals relinquished the badges required for entry to all sessions and ancillary events.

“Right here in Las Vegas, we have in-person 2,500 people in attendance and have 600 online now. And I’m thrilled,” Sherrif Karamat, CEO of PCMA, said.

Respectable when you compare these numbers to its 2019 gathering that attracted 3,895 attendees.

Caesars Forum, the 550,000-square-foot conference center in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, hosted the gathering. “Caesars Entertainment was proud to host a successful Convening Leaders for PCMA this past week. Bringing 2500-plus people together from our industry, in person in a safe and meaningful way, can be done successfully. We reconnected, learned and grew as an industry as a result, and Caesars Forum was the perfect venue for it,” Lisa Messina, Senior Vice President, Caesars Entertainment, said.

All in-person attendees were required to show proof of vaccination, which was facilitated by Safe Expo, a full-service, pre-to-post-health safety monitoring company, through an online platform. Masks were mandatory.

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PCMA was able to pivot with success when “Schitt’s Creek” star and co-creator Dan Levy, who was scheduled to open CL22, announced he had a conflict and could not fulfill his role as the opening session keynote speaker. Less than a week out, it was announced that Ronan Farrow, Pulitzer Prize and Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter and New York Times bestselling author, would be replacing Levy.

Farrow fired up the gathering by explaining how events change the world for the better, especially as misinformation in the media continues to be a real problem. Adding another dose of excitement was a surprise performance by singer and dancer Paula Abdul.

With corporate social responsibility always a focus, participants in the Hospitality Helping Hands session helped provide books to hundreds of children in 62 schools the Las Vegas area. Collaborating with Spread the Word Nevada, a nonprofit focused on advancing childhood literacy in low-income areas, volunteers sifted through 10,000 children’s books, making sure they were in optimal condition and then putting them in boxes. The PCMA Foundation also donated $10,000 to Spread the Word Nevada.

Highlights of the conference included a session on how the digital experience has changed, and another featuring Incoming PCMA Board Chair Charles Starks, President and CEO, Music City Center, about how the industry must forge ahead with a focus on innovation, education and collaboration.

PCMA 2022 Convening Leaders attracted destination executives from across the globe. Mark Tester, Executive Director of the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) and Casandra Matej, Visit Orlando’s President and CEO, took the main stage during one of the general sessions.

“Being on the main stage and participating in this year’s Convening Leaders was important to show that our industry is united, able to host safe events, innovating and changing the way we do business for our clients,” Tester said. “The power of meeting face-to-face couldn’t be more relevant in this new world, especially with supplier chain issues, new health protocols and the competitive staffing issues that many of us in the industry are facing. Exchanging ideas and best practices is best done in person.”

Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for Washington, D.C., was on hand as well. “We recognize that the pandemic continues to cause uncertainty, but we remain committed to strong in-person meetings and we’re happy to be at PCMA, where we all feel the value of meeting face-to-face,” Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of DDC, said. “D.C. is dedicated to getting back to business with all of the necessary health measures in place, and as a tourism bureau our staff is committed to helping customers navigate the current guidelines to hold a successful event. With 20 city-wides scheduled this year, I remain optimistic about recovery, and the positive economic impact and local jobs that come with meetings and events.”

Discover Puerto Rico was also in attendance and was happy to share statistics about its record-breaking 2021. Brad Dean, Chief Executive Officer of the DMO and U.S. Travel Association’s 2021 State Tourism Director of the Year, offered details about a $185M entertainment complex and a celebration of San Juan’s 500th Anniversary.

Reach Sheriff Karamat at skaramat@pcma.org; Lisa Messina at lmessina@caesars.com; Mark Tester at mark.tester@occc.net; Casandra.Matej@VisitOrlando.com; elliott.ferguson@destinationdc.com