How One Event Professional is Helping the Homeless

Participants in the hackathon at PCMA EduCon 2019 work on their presentations. The focus was on the power of the events industry to address homelessness. (Jacob Slaton Photography) In Spring 2019, Windy Christner, CMP, senior director of meetings and expositions for American Pharmacists Association (APhA), was unnerved by what she experienced in downtown Seattle during a site visit for APhA’s then-upcoming annual meeting at Washington State Convention Center. In the short time it took to walk from the hotel to the convention center, she and her team saw three individuals passed out and on the ground. The air reeked of urine, and one man followed someone on Christner’s staff, demanding cash. (Read the Convene October 2018 cover story.) Windy Christner Such encounters aren’t uncommon in U.S. cities, where homelessness has been rising in connection with factors that include a crisis in affordable housing and an epidemic of opioid use. What is rare, however, is what happened next: First, Christner spoke out, in a letter outlining her concerns about the safety of the more than 6,000 attendees who were expected at the meeting, which she addressed to Visit Seattle CEO Tom Norwalk. “I am empathetic for the plight of those in need,” Christner wrote, “and realize that Seattle is by no means alone. However, the safety and security of the APhA attendee is my first priority, and I am extremely concerned.” And then Christner and her team sat down with Visit Seattle staff and the leaders from other Seattle organizations to work out a plan that not only addressed the safety and security of meeting attendees, but gave them an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of Seattle families who are affected by homelessness. The experience not only altered the trajectory of the 2019 APhA meeting, held March 22–25, but turned Christner into a passionate advocate who is urging meeting professionals to leverage the power of meetings to help change the face of homelessness around the country, rather than try to avoid it. “It’s time that we focus on going to the cities who need our help,” Christner said, “instead of using it as an excuse to stay away from them.” Straight Talk in Seattle Christner credits the Visit Seattle team and its chief executive with playing a big part in influencing her resolve. Norwalk is “one of the most courageous and vested CVB presidents I have ever known,” she said. “He is out in front, to do what it takes” to face the problem and find solutions, she said. It was Norwalk who suggested that Christner document her concerns in a letter, which he shared with Seattle’s mayor. Norwalk’s team also set up a meeting between Christner and representatives from the Seattle Police Department and Downtown Seattle’s safety ambassador program to discuss how the area around the convention center would be patrolled during APhA’s meeting dates. The safety ambassadors work

Convening Leaders Quiz Crystallizes Event Goals

This question is one of several Convening Leaders 2020 attendees can answer to receive a suggested schedule for the education sessions. In a first for PCMA Convening Leaders, attendees are crafting customized schedules based on answers to a quiz that helps them identify the personal or professional goal they most want to achieve at the event Jan. 5-8 in San Francisco. All sessions at Convening Leaders 2020 are aligned with the event’s “Reach” theme, which is distilled down into four goals: reaching for higher levels of professional success; reaching for deeper personal connections with friends and colleagues; reaching for wider audiences; and reaching out to local communities through social impact projects. By answering questions ranging from “What is the most important part of a destination or venue?” to “For event lunches, what type of flatware do you offer your attendees?” participants receive a suggested schedule based on their responses and tied to one of the four goals. “Our focus in developing the quiz questions is to help our attendees take a critical look at what their professional and personal goals are for 2020,” said Zibby Aman, PCMA’s senior manager of education. “We designed a quiz that helps you ask yourself what is most important to you right now. When you can identify what your No. 1 development goal is, we can map that to our multifaceted content offerings at Convening Leaders 2020.” At Convening Leaders 2020, sessions in the eight content studios are complemented by sessions in the Innovate + Elevate Arena, which PCMA describes as an “interactive playground.” It features three mission-focused stages: Action, Accelerate, and Tech. After tackling a topic in the studios, participants can head to the arena for ways to put that learning into action via more education, facilitated conversations with subject matter experts, and a variety of hands-on activities. Attendees interested in diversity and inclusion, for example, follow the “community” goal pathway. So on Jan. 6 they are directed to sessions including “Welcoming Diverse Travelers with More Inclusive Events” led by HospitableMe’s William Kolber and Ed Salvato at 11:15 a.m. in the Trending Now studio. Then, at 1:45 that afternoon, they can take a deeper dive into the topic at the arena’s Action stage with Kolber, Salvato, and co-presenters Kryss Shane, an LGBT+ expert, and Nike’s Senior Event Manager Ron Renee Roley. That session is titled “Take Action: Steps to an Inclusive Environment.” “The quiz,” Aman added, “is allowing us to tell the narrative of the program as well as helping our attendees navigate its vastness with meaningful content designed around their specific needs.” Attendees’ customized schedules, which will link to the PCMA LIVE app, allows them, she added, to “pick one goal and run with it.” You can find the quiz at the Event Professionals Goal page on the Convening Leaders site. To skip the quiz and sort sessions by a goal, go to the “I’m interested in” tab on the “Full Schedule” page and use the pick-list.

Managing Speaker Info Overload

Mahoganey Jones presents at PCMA EduCon 2019 in Los Angeles. Readers of PCMA’s Catalyst forum are offering advice about speaker confirmation and information emails. (Jacob Slaton Photography) PCMA’s Catalyst community offers members a platform to ask each other questions, share ideas, or, as the website says, “communicate and collaborate.” Each month Convene features some of the most popular topics in the forum. Here’s a sampling from a recent Catalyst discussion. Speaker Engagement “I’m looking to revamp our speaker confirmation and information email,” Krista Rakovan, manager, Education and Events, The Humane Society of the United States, told the Catalyst community. “We provide so much information including dates, times, locations, AV equipment they will have, the session description, handout information and deadlines, biography and picture request, speaker MOU, expense reimbursement information, hotel booking information, and more. Has anyone come up with a good format for providing a lot of information in a clear way that won’t make them glaze over after the first paragraph? I use an Excel document to keep all of the speaker information organized and use Mail Merge to send out the email, which means I can’t include attachments. All the info has to be in the body of the email. If you have a template or an example you could share, I’d appreciate it. Thank you!” I would recommend splitting up the information over a series of emails leading up to the event. This makes the content more easily digestible while, at the same time, maintaining engagement with your speakers. — Barry Schieferstein, CMP, American Society for Nondestructive Testing We provide information to speakers in a variety of ways — the confirmation email is very short and basically provides a few important points about our speaker portal, registration, and copyright. Then, we send an email to each session. In that email, we connect the speakers and send them information about planning (link to descriptor, AV, room set, etc.), registration, speaker portal, and accommodations. We’ve worked really hard to streamline this so it’s digestible. In doing so, we push the speakers out to other areas of information — a two-page handout that provides more information on best practices in presenting, and a link to an online speaker portal. The portal is where they add photos, biographies, hotel information, and handouts. The portal is connected to our event website. This is all run by CadmiumCD. We then send a followup on deadline dates (which the speaker portal as the capacity to do as well), and a final email about on-site logistics. We run into the same issues that you have — we have so much to say (and because people have asked the information of us), but it’s hard to put it in a format that someone will read! The speaker portal has definitely helped in streamlining messages because we can put so much information there. I’m happy to share our documents if you’d like. — Mariellen Morris, director of conferences, Public

People on the Move

Your colleagues are on the move, find out who is going where. Donna Marchese Hard Rock International has appointed Donna Marchese as regional director of global sales-Americas. In this role, she will build brand awareness, develop relationships with key group clients and agencies in the Northeast, and drive business to the entire portfolio. Marchese also will support Hard Rock’s launch of music-inspired, MICE-branded experience programs in January. Marchese has more than two decades of experience, with a focus on corporate and intermediary accounts in the Northeast. Katie Callahan-Giobbi SmithBucklin has added Katie Callahan-Giobbi — a 30-year association advocate who has successfully led initiatives at nonprofits and for-profits that have benefited the association community — to its team. Callahan-Giobbi will serve as head of business development, where she will collaborate with executives of trade associations and professional societies to find customized solutions to help accomplish their goals. Previously, she served as chief operating officer at Association Forum. Gina Locatto Gina Locatto has been named special events sales manager for the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. She will focus on the sales of non-traditional events in the facility, including all of the venue’s Mardi Gras events, consumer shows, and local corporate events. Locatto, who has been with Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for 15 years, previously served as production sales manager at the convention center. Kate Burger Louisville Tourism has promoted Kate Burger to director of convention sales. She previously served as senior sales manager. In her new position, Burger will support the senior and national sales managers and continue to pursue conventions totaling 301 peak nights and above in the education and cultural markets. Burger has been with Louisville Tourism since 2012.