“Events are catalysts for social and economic development“
This is an exclusive interview with Event Point International, recorded in Barcelona, with the European Influencers Summit (EIS), which took place from 22 to 24 September, as a background.
Luca, what is the balance of your mission to make PCMA more visible in Europe?
It’s amazing to think it’s been two and a half years since I accepted this challenge… but I’m very pleased, because we are finally watching the recognition of this work. Today we are at EIS, an event we started two years ago as a very small event for 40 people, and today we have almost 300 registered… We have implemented a strategy, built a product, and are developing and delivering the topics in that program. This has allowed PCMA to be established and recognised in Europe as well.
Of course it’s not easy because we started almost from scratch, and it takes time. Recognition and engagement are growing, membership is increasing, but that is not even our main goal, because we know that recognition comes first, engagement with it, and only then, in a third step, can we expect to have more members.
We have created a series of what we call Knowledge Exchanges, a series of small round tables, aiming at specific or different targets, and we already have six or seven planned across Europe; we have EIS, which has become our flagship event, that this year has attracted, as I said, about 300 people; and we are communicating through all the channels we have available.
After two and a half years, I must say that I am very pleased with the way PCMA has developed in the region.
How does the European Influencers Summit fit into this strategy?
We analysed the meeting and the event design and looked for ways to create that engagement. At Innovation Hub, for which we got inspiration from Convening Leaders, we have created a large area where most activities take place, allowing the entire audience to really feel involved. In the afternoon, we will take a third of our participants to a football stadium (Camp Nou), where we will have experts from the FC Barcelona marketing team, who will explain how the club builds its community, and engages with that community. We chose a venue that has a link to content, that has a link to our audience. And that is what we are trying to achieve with eery moment of this event.
How do you choose your EIS destinations?
The event has already taken place twice in Spain, but this is not a strategy. We publish an RFP - every destination in Europe can answer that RFP - and the best proposal wins. Last year we were in Seville, and this year was Barcelona. Both applications had the commitment of the cities themselves in their favour, something that is important to us. It is not just a matter of welcoming and providing the necessary financial support, it is assuming this as a true partnership, and this is something that PCMA is doing with all the events we are organising. If we look at San Francisco, Pittsburgh last year, which hosted the Convening Leaders, one of our main criteria for choosing a destination is to feel that there is a commitment, a desire to host our events, in partnership with us. Of course there must be good flight connections, accessibility, but because we are talking about events that are still small, in the case of EIS, we can fit anywhere. Again, the most important thing is sharing ideas, and building a program that is not just a PCMA decision but a choice between venue, destination and PCMA.
We just saw Sheriff Karamat, PCMA president and CEO. Does this show the Association’s commitment to Europe?
Yes, it was a unanimous decision of the PCMA council, and it was a bold decision: to become a global association. We have a total commitment from all of them, starting with the president himself, Sheriff Karamat. We are driven by this groundbreaking vision he brought to PCMA that events are catalysts for social and economic development, and it is this light that we pursue in all that we are doing, whether in Europe or Asia. We have an office with four people in Singapore, which shows how PCMA has invested in hiring human resources, and I am personally delighted to have been chosen for Europe.
And what are the following steps?
The resources we have are not unlimited, so we need to set priorities. In the first and second years it was about creating recognition, now we have to be more focused. If we look at the association universe, for example, we know that Brussels, Switzerland and London are the main markets. In terms of services, we are committed to providing advice. It’s not just delivering educational programs, it’s helping destinations improving their positioning through marketing and event consulting. Especially to emerging destinations, which may need help in training their staff, or defining marketing strategies to improve their positioning, and establish themselves as a relevant brand in this segment, in their region or country…
We seek to grow organically in all the meetings industry different categories. We are paying particular attention to suppliers, who are accepting us very well. It is more difficult to gain recognition from associations and corporations on what we call business event strategists - a terminology we have created, so we try not to talk about corporate planners or association planners. We talk about business event strategists because we are fully convinced that events are 100% business-oriented, in line with what our vision of meetings industry is. I have therefore devoted a lot of time and effort to developing both sides, suppliers and event professionals in parallel, so that together we can create the platform for PCMA’s growth in Europe.