Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 2013

Behind the Scenes: No Modifier Necessary

By Michelle Russell, Editor in Chief
PCMA Convene

Why we see the meetings industry in a bigger way.

I’ve just returned from Convene’s annual editorial and sales retreat in Chicago, where magazine publishing expert Bob Sacks helped us take a big-picture view of the rapidly evolving digital-publishing landscape. We’d sent Bob several issues of Convene before he spoke to us so he would have a sense of our content and audience, and he said he was impressed with our niche-industry magazine.

“Niche,” according to dictionary.com, is a modifier that means “relating to or aimed at a small, specialized group or market.” We know that Convene is not a general-interest business magazine like Fast Company; technically, we are a niche publication.

But the industry we cover is far from small or specialized. Respondents to our annual Meetings Market Survey estimated that all of the meetings they held last year brought an average of $3.8 million in economic benefit to their host destinations.

While our economic value is important, it’s only part of the picture. Spread out as we are across all fields, we have a way to go before meetings are perceived by the general public as a single, bona-fide industry. We’ve quantified meetings’ economic worth, but qualifying their contributions to society is a far more complex undertaking.

Executive Editor Christopher Durso and Senior Editor Barbara Palmer and I often talk about how conferences — in our highly digital world — seem to be reaching a tipping point as the way people seek to exchange ideas. When you’re a hammer, the saying goes, everything looks like a nail — and perhaps we are guilty of observing everything through a meetings-industry-focused lens. Still, I stumbled across examples in support of our theory of conferences-as-solutions in two magazine articles I read during my travels last month.

From The Intelligent Optimist: When Janisse Ray, author of the book The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, wanted to wrap her head around the problem of the lack of diversity in crops, she went to a Seed Savers Exchange Conference “and met a lot of people who are working on the preservation of seeds.” 

And from Spirit, Southwest Airlines’ inflight magazine: Hoping to bridge the gap in our understanding of the healing effects of the ocean, California Academy of Sciences biologist and researcher Wallace Nichols “started what has become an annual conference, bringing together neuroscientists and people who use the ocean for recreation in order to look seriously at its positive effects on our health. He called it Bluemind.”

It turned out that my seatmate on the flight home was a photographer returning from shooting a medical-device company’s meeting. I told him what I do, and he shared how impressed he was, as he went about photographing the sessions, by how much got accomplished at the meeting. He said he felt energized by being a small part of it.

“Yep,” I agreed. “It can be a powerful medium.”

Sidebar: Brain Trust


When Barbara Palmer sat in on an educational session about the brain science behind AV practices at PCMA Convening Leaders this past January, she knew it had all the earmarks of a Convene cover story. So she dug in a little deeper after the meeting. Read about the solid research that bolsters innovative event technology — and get some easy-to-implement tactics — in Barbara’s CMP Series article.

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