Canada East Chapter

December 11 2012

PCMA Today:The View From the Front of the Room

Michelle Russell
Simon Hughes, managing partner of MCHA Ltd. and 2012 chair of Eventia, the U.K.-based trade association representing the events industry, moderated the PCMA Global Corporate Summit. Here he shares his summit experience.

Meeting new people is an occupational hazard if you work in our world. You really need to be confident about it if you're going to succeed. Yet even with all my experience, I must confess to being just a little anxious about helping to moderate the first-ever PCMA Global Corporate Summit.

For a start, I'd seen the list of attendees. These were serious folks, many working for major global brands. They handled hundreds of events a year around the globe. They probably knew a lot more than me about pretty much every discussion item on the agenda.

Then there was the keynote speaker, Frans Johansson, flying in to wow us, and then jumping straight back on a plane to get back to make sure his new book was set for launch. He's written a number of bestselling books. I just read books. [Looking at Johansson,] it somehow felt like the difference between the Beijing opening ceremony for the Olympics and the London version. He would be younger, fitter, more dynamic, louder, and definitely more enthusiastic [than me]. I don't really do enthusiasm, but I can do quirky English creativity.

As it turned out, I need not have worried about any of this at all. The attendees were delightful, eager to learn and share, to exchange ideas, and discuss issues in an open and constructive manner. They also knew how to enjoy themselves and even tolerated my idiosyncratic tendencies to burst into song.

I would like to thank the 2012 PCMA Corporate Task Force, so ably led by McDonald's Kelley Butler, for getting the right topics on the table. The itinerary was very full, so I found myself waking up early in the morning and then pacing around rehearsing the introductions and reviewing my notes for the education sessions. What was really exciting about the whole summit was the fact that everyone wanted to share so willingly. I often felt bad about having to draw things to what felt like an abrupt end when so many great conversations were still going on. But then I am a stickler for timing!

Perhaps the most interesting thing for me was hearing that many of the corporate members present, regardless of the size of their organization, their corporate culture, or their experience, shared so much in common in terms of the things that really mattered to them, the areas where they were keen to learn and develop and the common understanding that they had about future challenges facing them and many others in the broader events and meetings space. Our time together was genuinely productive and exciting, with new friends made and new ideas to take away.

Scotland Travelogue

The focus of the PCMA Global Corporate Summit, sponsored by VisitScotland (conventionscotland.com)(hyperlink), the Scottish Exhibition + Conference Centre (SECC, secc.co.uk), and Active Network (activenetwork.com), was to create a forum for knowledge sharing. VisitScotland provided an added benefit: giving participants the chance to experience for themselves how a global event can be staged in its country.

On Saturday, early arrivals to the summit left from our host hotel in Glasgow City Centre, the five-star, 100-room Blythswood Square (blythswoodsquare.com), to explore Scotland's largest city. The Blythswood served as the Royal Scottish Automobile Club's clubhouse from 1923 until it was converted to and opened as a hotel in 2009. With its many vintage photos of its auto history, the handsome building remains true to its past while offering sleekly modern amenities.

Glasgow is one of Europe's top 10 financial centers and a hub of science, as well as history, culture, and art, which we sampled, along with a proper Scottish afternoon tea, at the majestic Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum (convn.org/kelvingrove-art)(hyperlink). We left enough room for traditional Scottish cuisine with a twist (haggis fritters, anyone?), served later that evening at the relaxed Arisaig Bar & Restaurant (arisaigrestaurant.co.uk)(hyperlink), in the courtyard of historic Merchant Square.

The next morning, we sipped fine single-malt Scotch whisky at the picturesque Glengoyne Distillery (glengoyne.com). After a brief boat ride through the mist on the Loch Lomond, we pulled up to the dock at the Boat House at the Cameron House Loch Lomond for a tasty barbecue, then strolled over to the baronial Cameron House estate (convn.org/cam-house), which has 103 rooms and 26 suites, seven meeting rooms, and breathtaking views of the pristine loch and highlands.

Following the summit kick-off session that evening, we headed out for a lovely dinner at The Corinthian Club (thecorinthianclub.co.uk)(hyperlink), in the heart of Glasgow City Centre, housing a variety of private bars, dining, and event rooms on five levels.

After a full day of programming at the SECC on Monday, we were officially welcomed to Glasgow by Lord Provost Sadie Docherty and fellow Council members, who dined with us that evening at City Chambers (convn.org/ glasgow-chambers). This magnificent example of Victorian civil architecture and Beaux-Arts style, with its grand Carrara marble staircase and opulent decorations, was designed to demonstrate the prosperity of Glasgow, known as the Second City of the British Empire in the late-19th century.

We met for a morning session at the SECC on Tuesday, then boarded a bus that took us through the lush Scottish highland and lowland, to the 234-bedroom, 26-suite Gleneagles resort (gleneagles.com)(hyperlink). A grand estate on 850 acres of rolling green Perthshire countryside, Gleneagles is renowned for its three championship golf courses. The property is the site of the 2014 Ryder Cup, and summit participants got to hold the trophy in their hands. With 14 meeting rooms, and its role as host of the G8 Summit in 2005, Gleneagles also has established a stellar reputation as a meeting destination. Our somewhat less auspicious group finished up sessions on Wednesday morning in a meeting room with sweeping views of Gleneagles' gorgeous property, and then we were off to Edinburgh for the last leg of our Scotland experience.

Our first stop in Scotland's second-largest city was a delicious lunch at the 260-room Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa (sheratonedinburgh.co.uk)(hyperlink),which has recently undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation of its 14-room meeting space. We then checked into the elegant 254-room Caledonian (caledonianhotel.info), which is undergoing a renovation of its lobby and carving out a brand-new, light-filled, ground-floor space, and shortly will be rebranded as a Waldorf Astoria hotel. The turn-of-the-century property was originally part of the Princes Street railway station, and offers eight conference rooms, as well as a view of the majestic Edinburgh Castle.

Perched on top of Castle Rock's volcanic mound, the castle seems to stand vigil over this bustling capital city, whose Old Town and New Town districts were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. We explored the city by bus, and when our tour guide pointed out the cafÈ where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book, it made perfect sense: Edinburgh casts a magical spell.

For our final evening, we toured the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC, eicc.co.uk)(hyperlink), which is in the midst of a new multilevel expansion. When completed next spring, the addition will feature a stunning glass atrium and state-of-the-art moving-floor technology for easy reconfiguration of groups of up to 2,000.

If we hadn't felt like we had been given the royal treatment thus far, our gala dinner aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia (royalyachtbritannia.co.uk)(hyperlink), berthed in Edinburgh and floating home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for more than 40 years, sealed the deal. Our excellent meal was served with military precision in the same room that has hosted kings and queens, prime ministers and presidents. As we gathered on the deck before departing, a bagpipe band came into sight and sound and marched into formation beneath us, for a most fitting Scottish send-off.

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