Meetings No 19
Artificial Intelligence
Atti Soenarso: AI is soon an everyday commodity.
Cover Story
Anders Sörman-Nilsson
Gazing into the future of the meetings industry.
Europe is not a market
It is the will to live together.
Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre
“Our vision is to create Europe’s most attractive venue.”
Padraic Gilligan
Why ROI for meetings and incentives is a waste of time.
Elling Hamso
Why ROI is not a waste of time.
ICC Sydney
An important contributor to innovation.
Radar on penetrating the ­European meetings industry.
HR Technology
The Rise of AI
Rohit Talwar and Alexandra Whittington: On AI and HR.
Sustainable Growth
Scandinavian sustainability initiative expands.
In a Hole
Lending a hand.
Record number of association meetings in 2016.
Best Cities Global Forum
“Unlocking the collective intelligence.”
My 23 Best Tactics for Personal Greatness
Robin Sharma: “Protect your willpower.”
Technology and Meetings
Tech is key in creating purposeful meetings.
IMEX Frankfurt
Packed with opportunities.
Cyber Security
The Anti-Cloud
Jaak Geens and Linas Bukauskas on
Cyber vs. Personal
Roger Kellerman: “Now is the time to improve online security.”
MCI middle East and Zahara Tours
join forces to bring association events to Oman.
business intelligence
ibtm world pre-matched appointments
reach new high ahead of 30th anniversary edition.
Meeting Industry
Convene Hosted Buyer Programme
Reaches All-Time High.
Award winner
Gothenburg ranks number one
among sustainable and innovative cities.
association meetings
Inaugural Winners
of Incredible Impacts Grants Announced.

Nigeria, Senegal and Cape Verde
dominate the West African hotel pipeline with 77% of the total planned hotel rooms.
business Intelligence
Business events
must adopt Olympic standard when it comes to safety.
hotel news
Dubai’s first all-inclusive resort
sees big rise in demand.
maximum meeting place
Paris Convention Centre:
the largest conference centre in Europe.
Business Intelligence
Digital focus gives 13% uplift
for Denmark on German MICE market.
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PCMA – Radar on Penetrating the ­European Meetings Industry

The latter half of the twentieth century was an era of significant blossoming for the North American meetings industry. Vast improvements to transport connectivity and scintillating new meeting venues regularly coming on stream were bolstered by signature hotel chains expanding their portfolios to accommodate profile business gatherings from coast to coast, in both established and emerging destinations. All of this helped nurture an industry today clocking up more than 1.8 million annual meetings in the US alone, facilitated by a similar number of people working in it and with a combined direct, indirect and induced effect contributing almost $400 billion of GDP every year.

Underpinning all of this has been an equally vast improvement in the calibre of the personnel making the industry tick, for which the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), formed in 1956, has played a pivotal role. Connecting and offering education to those working in the convention sphere, it has for six decades been instrumental in the advancement and success of those working in the North American meetings industry. From their current HQ in Chicago, Illinois, the association has now set its radar on penetrating the European industry too, and the man they have tasked for this job is Luca Favetta, newly appointed as EMEA Regional Business Director.

“The first time that I met PCMA was through its COO Sherrif Karamat, when we were both attending an APC conference in 2009 in La Coruna, and since then I collaborated with them and gave presentations at some of the events they organised,” says Luca Favetta. “I therefore had the opportunity of experiencing first hand the value of the assets and the education that PCMA provides, so when I’d heard about the opportunity that was available I decided to move out of the corporate environment I’d been in for 25 years and try new challenges, new ideas and a new world I know less about, but that is really interesting and appealing.”

Whilst the association realm is a new world for Luca Favetta, he nonetheless brings to it a wealth of corporate event experience: ten years spent as Event Manager for Hewlett Packard Italy, several years thereafter at the Hewlett Packard headquarters in Geneva with responsibility for strategy and event operation Europe-wide, a further twelve years at German software company SAP covering EMEA Event Strategy and Operations, before returning to Hewlett Packard for a global role. The temptation of growing PCMA in Europe, however, proved too strong to keep him there, but he is aware that his latest role carries with it a significant number of challenges.

“Historically the associations engagement has always been focused on North America, but these days the industry is changing fast and is increasingly engaged in Global Meeting Management, so the industry is becoming global very, very quickly,” says Luca Favetta. “The vast majority of PCMA membership that is today in the US, Canada and Mexico is more and more engaged in global meetings, so these days PCMA already has members in APAC and EMEA. As our members and partners are searching more and more for global solutions, we thought that we also need to provide education globally and therefore started to think about moving on and investing in other regions outside the US and North American base.”

“I therefore have a mantra that I repeat to myself every morning: ’We want to move PCMA in Europe, creating education from Europe, for Europe’,” says Luca Favetta. “This is our specific goal and the first step that I am taking in these first months is really working on understanding the education needs that our region has that might be similar in some ways, but in other ways different, to the ones that we have in the US. What we don’t want to do is throw assets at and try to implement a US-strategy in Europe. What we want to do is to really understand and talk with the influencers in our region, to understand geographically where we should focus, in which areas are the gaps in education in our region and country by country to understand which each really needs. Only at that point can we start to think about which kind of programmes or assets we have to develop, so right now we are really at the beginning of the journey.”

Having formally taken up the reins of the job in early January this year the journey is naturally still in its infancy, but to have an early clear steer for PCMA’s inroads into the European industry some defined objectives for the new role have already been established.

“The first objective that I have is to create brand awareness for the association in our region, as whilst PCMA is a very well known and respected brand in North America we are much less known in Europe,” says Luca Favetta. “My role for the next month will therefore be to work on grabbing the opportunity to make the association known in the region, attending events wherever it is possible, spreading the name of the brand and increasing our visibility in Europe.”

“My second objective is to try to create engagement. There are assets that PCMA have already developed that are available even if you are not a member, so the second goal is to get people engaged and starting to touch PCMA first hand and seeing what we can deliver. Hopefully in the long-term this will translate into my third objective, which is a growth of membership, but for the moment that is not on my priority list.”

Helping to fulfil his mantra and to crystallise these objectives a session of engagement and outreach has already been arranged in the form of a summer brainstorming workshop, from which the intention is to take PCMA’s European vision towards the terrain of an informed and more formal strategy.

“We have an invitation-only event planned for June where we will be gathering around forty influencers from all industry areas – corporation, association, Convention Bureaus, venues, universities, government and hotels – to have a think-tank for a couple of days where we will hopefully grab feedback and input, and together we will start to build what will be the presence of PCMA in our region,” says Luca Favetta. “The leading concept of our development strategy will be to make it short, doing things ’for Europeans, from Europeans’. For the moment we have a rough draft strategy that is in place, but we haven’t yet defined in detail the programmes that we’ll be deploying or developing in the region and which kind of content we’ll be addressing.”

“We’re still in the searching phase and we will move on in the second half of the year to starting to develop that more in detail. More will come out from the PCMA influencers summit in June and after that we will have better visibility on what we will have to deliver – or what we want to deliver – and at that point I will have even more detail and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for myself as well.”

Whilst much of the work is still in its embryonic and therefore optimistic stages, for the neutral observer there may also be a lingering sense of risk for a North American-centric association attempting to break into the European industry, particularly given previous difficulties encountered by other associations pursuing the same goal.

“It will not be an easy path, as we know that Europe is a different beast to the US and we know that every single country has a different level of maturity as well as behavioural and cultural aspects that need to be taken into consideration, so there are a lot of issues,” says Luca Favetta. “If we build our presence in the region, talking and getting input from the industry, then I think that any risk of failure will be definitely mitigated. As I said, doing things ’from Europeans, for Europeans’ is our basis, and if we follow this path we will limit or reduce any risk of failure.”

Attaching a heavily focused European string to a very North American PCMA bow might give further cause to ponder just how independent such a body can be from its US headquarters – and thereby US influence – at this outset phase and what level of impact transatlantic synergies of shared learning and resource pooling might have on the goal of penetrating the European industry.

“I’m independent in the sense that I have a responsibility of developing the strategy and deploying the strategy, but of course this is a shared strategy that is agreed from the HQ and then deployed in the target country,” says Luca Favetta. “Of course, I’m working and walking hand in hand with the US team, reporting to the COO, having regular calls and regular contact with all the team and I am leveraging the support of the US team for delivering all the activities that we are and will be delivering in Europe.”

“The relationship we have is great and I have the right level of autonomy, but on the other side I receive guidance and we share a point of view – sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t, but that’s what makes it interesting and in the end effective. There is a great mutual respect between myself and PCMA, so I’ve been hired with some objectives that I am fully responsible for achieving.”

Wasting no time in getting started on achieving these objectives, PCMA will use the platform of its scheduled appearances at IMEX Frankfurt, collaborating on the Edu Monday and running a seminar on ’critical thinking’ as part of the PCMA Business School Programme, as well as having sponsored presentations at The Meetings Show in London in June, being present at IBTM World in Barcelona in November and having a number of further events scheduled throughout 2017 to spread the word of PCMA in Europe and of the kind of education the association is positioning itself to offer.

“If we are able to deliver education that is the best in class, then I think that this will already help us in starting our growth,” says Luca Favetta. “Creating a detailed digital strategy and creating a digital community and working on social media is one component that will be part of the overall strategy, integrated with an event calendar strategy that makes sense for different countries, and creating and having a constant dialogue with the industry community. Those are the things that I will be focusing on in the coming months and over the next year.”

“There is a strong need for education in our industry and we are all increasingly asked to do more with less – we have less resources, less budgets, less time and we need to do more things, so I see it becoming critical that we as industry players have access to the best education opportunities on the market. What we want is to provide customised education and a platform to enable industry leaders to connect and check their knowledge, and to create a new generation of business event strategists around the world. This is the new vision of PCMA.”