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Collaborating With PCMA Austin embodies the theme of Convening Leaders 2017 By George Seli

PCMA’s Tech Central at the Austin Convention Center


he latest installment of the Professional Convention Management Association’s Convening Leaders, held Jan. 8-11 in Austin, TX, bore the theme “Designing ColLABoration.” That focus was carried out at the Austin Convention Center (ACC) through learning labs and session topics, but there was also an exemplary collaboration in the planning of the event itself. The City of Austin, Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, ACC and PCMA organizers came together to design a meeting that had all the ingredients for an outstanding attendee experience: logistical convenience, tech savvy, innovative F&B service, local culture and vendors, and a few surprises on the entertainment side. The result was the bestattended Convening Leaders to date, with a total of 4,175 delegates, plus nearly 1,500 virtual participants. Attendees represented 45 countries, eclipsing the 36 represented at Convening Leaders 2016 in Vancouver, BC. Last year’s event provided an opportunity for the ACC staff to begin its Katherine Putnam, GM, Levy partnership with PCMA and Restaurants

Facilities & Destinations 2016-2017 Winter

obtain “an understanding of what the conference was about, what the expectation was from an F&B perspective and what our clientele demographic looked like,” says Katherine Putnam, General Manager of Levy Restaurants’ unit at the ACC, who attended Convening Leaders in Vancouver. Mark Tester, Director, But well before Convening Leaders Austin Convention Center 2016, “we knew what an important event it was, not only for the city of Austin but for the ACC and Levy Restaurants,” says Putnam. “So it was important at all levels from an operational perspective to execute it at 110 percent.” By doing so, the ACC would make the best impression on a key audience of decision makers in the convention industry. Among the attendees were “a tremendous amount of meeting planners who had never been to Austin before,” observes Mark Tester, Director of the ACC and nearby Palmer Events Center. “We had 60-70 people tour the building before the event started; there was a lot of interest in seeing all we had to offer. It gave us a great opportunity to really prepare for a group that was going to come in and look to experiment and do things differently.” The innovative planning at Convening Leaders 2017 was evidenced from the moment attendees arrived at the AustinBergstrom International Airport, where the City allowed for a full registration setup at baggage claim. “They had live music, beverages and Austin swag, and provided bus transportation downtown,” Tester describes. “And that was a huge 31

Facilities & Destinations - Winter 2016-2017  

F&D's Winter edition, includes: Q&A with Atlantic City Convention Center's new GM, Dean Dennis. F&D A-List: Woman CVB Executives. Planne...

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