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"Make a black friend"

To open the 2020 conference year, PCMA sent out invitations for the Convening Leaders Convention in San Francisco. It was a trip worthwhile for Europeans, who were amazed at the size, the organization and sponsors, who heard keynotes enough for four conferences, and who made very easily (business) friends.

ilicon Valley: the place to be for start-ups, home to tech giants such as Apple, and domain of Bozoma "Boz" Saint John. In her former function as Head of Global Consumer Marketing for iTunes and Apple, she was ranked as 'the coolest women in the tech scene', the actual star upstaging all other players. All those experiencing "Boz" live on stage, a privilege enjoyed by the 4,600 delegates at the Convening Leaders 2020, were certain to agree. "Anyone who told me to behave differently just didn’t understand me. I tried. A little bit. It was too exhausting. I gave up to be someone else," she admitted. "Sometimes we avoid sharing things or hide parts of ourselves, because we’re afraid that people won’t connect to it or will judge us differently because of some experience or some emotion. But I have found in my experience that most of the time that's actually what connects us to other people."

Saint John aims to develop human brands, which is why she joined Uber. She considers it a challenge that Silicon Valley is not a friendly place for women and black people. "I could make a statement by just being there." Diversity is a hotly-discussed issue in the corporate community, but it's always up to the others to make it happen: "What about you?" she asked. "Do you have a diverse group of friends?" Her appeal to the audience: "Make a black friend!"

Something she thought leaders 2020 ought to keep in focus is transparency. "That's it. That's a big trend," said Saint John, today Chief Marketing Officer for Endeavor. "Gone are the days where consumers or audience don't know what is going on in board rooms. They want to know. People want to understand who you are and what you are doing next. Talk about the people in the brand." Her words earned her standing ovations.

Visit Orlando and the Orange County Convention Center provided the stage for her presentation 'Being Boz: Being Authentic Inspire Social Change through Brand Storytelling'. This was a genuine highlight at the 'Convening Leaders', the flagship event of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) in San Francisco. At the convention from 5 to 8 January 2020, another keynote on the main stage at the Moscone Convention Center South was given by Gene Kranz, courtesy of Visit Houston. Kranz spent 37 years at NASA, including as flight director for Apollo 11, the first landing on the moon, and for Apollo 13, the third moon landing attempt that spawned the quote, "Houston, we have a problem." His keynote 'Failure Not an Option' addressed leadership under pressure.
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There are speakers for which a long distance flight is worthwhile: Bozoma Saint John (r.) about authenticity in business.


The 66th Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, closed the Main Stage program at PCMA Convening Leaders 2020 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Media coverage was prohibited. We, at tw tagungswirtschaft respect this.

"We are known for bringing leaders from outside the business events industry to share thoughtprovoking, practical and innovative strategies so we can continue to make business events a platform for global economic and social transformation," said Sherrif Karamat. The president and CEO of PCMA wants to make a difference, which is why he champions the PCMA initiative 'Ascent' for diversity and inclusion. 53 percent of the 90+ speakers in San Francisco were female. In his address to the audience, Karamat paid tribute to his (business) friends suffering under the bushfires in Australia. "When something is happening at one part of the world it has an impact on the rest of the world, " he commented, and once again emphasized his vision: "We drive global economic and social transformation through business events."

He was aware of the effects of strong messages and of the dynamics created when 4,600 executives from 40 countries met at Convening Leaders, with another 850 paying an online visit. Four in ten of attendees were event planners, one in four C-level executives, more than 400 CEOs. The list of participants included Cisco and Oracle, on the other side there were around 1,000 first-timers, 120 participants came from 16 countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Karamat: "Our program in San Francisco is designed to help our industry reach new levels of professional success, wider audiences for events and services and connect with local communities through meaningful social impact projects. Quite logically, 'Reach' is the 2020 motto.

150 Helping Hands pitched in at the San Francisco- Marin Food Bank, 300 volunteers guided visitors through the streets of San Francisco in the colors of the Convening Leaders or to the three bus shuttles commuting between 15 hotels. The Hilton San Francisco Union Square with more than 1,000 bedrooms, 24 meeting rooms and halls for up to 2,200 persons had entirely geared itself to its guests: the lobby with info counter, photo spot with the Golden Gate Bridge and Candy Bar, cheerful staffers made the slogan on their shirts come true: 'Fueling your Day – for PCMA'.

It was only a few walking minutes to the Moscone Convention Center. Following a $551 million expansion, the complex now has six halls with a total capacity of 75,000 sqms and 106 rooms. The Convening Leaders was based at the Moscone South with 24,000 sqms. Upon entering the facility, the PCMA kitchen and lounges like 'Painted Ladies' were perfect meeting points. The extra-wide stairs led visitors downward to Halls A, B, C featuring the main stage and the Innovate and Elevate-Arena with open stands and three open spaces e.g. 'Tech Talk Stage', where sessions such as 'How can AI help event planners provide more value to event attendees?' were staged. Looking for a particular topic? Ask Alexa! She was around everywhere; her answer to 'Diversity' was 'Action Stage', where Gale King, Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer for Nationwide said: "Gender equality helps you to attract and retain talent. If you have inequalities in your company, people don’t want to work for you."

The IMEX Group twittered its invitation to lunch in Hall A: 'Meatless Monday lunch at #PCMACL. By going meatless, we saved 932,000 gallons of water and 6,510kg of CO2!' That provided for quite a few discussions at the hundreds of round tables covering everything from meatless eating over climate changes to the bushfires in Australia.


Tom David, Executive Vice President & Chief Sales Officer of San Francisco Travel Association, about PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2020PHOTO: SAN FRANCISCO TRAVEL
Tom David, Executive Vice President & Chief Sales Officer of San Francisco Travel Association, about PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2020
tw: San Francisco Travel sponsored the Closing Party of Convening Leaders at the Chase Center with an exclusive concert of Maroon 5 – especially Europeans were very impressed. Why did you make such a big effort and did invest so much money?
Tom David: There were really two things that drove our decision to do the Closing Party at the Chase Center. First of all, since Chase Center is a brand new venue in San Francisco and it can be booked for private events, we felt it was important to showcase it to this prestigious group of planners. We felt that in order to feature this new venue, we had to have the appropriate level of entertainment. Additionally, we wanted to make sure that the Convening Leaders attendees felt how much we value them and appreciate the meetings and convention executives and planners so we thought that booking a closing act the caliber of Maroon 5 was a perfect way to show our appreciation.

How else did you support PCMA’s flagship event?
The San Francisco Travel Association also hosted the Opening Reception at Pier 48 on Sunday evening, Party with A Purpose at The Masonic on Monday evening. Additionally the Palace Hotel hosted the Past Chairman’s Reception on Monday evening. Other areas of support included all of the busing and VIP transportation and the coordination of welcome/hospitality desks in the hotels and at San Francisco International Airport. We also provided nearly 300 volunteers to assist throughout the conference.

As a host of a large convention, do you always sponsor so generously?
When we have hosted other industry related events in the past we have also deployed similar resources. In the case of Convening Leaders, since we had not hosted it since 2000, we utilized some additional resources in hopes of exceeding the expectations of the group.

How important are business events and conferences for San Francisco?
The meetings and conventions industry represents nearly $2 Billion annually.

Which impact does the Silicon Valley have on San Francisco as international destination for conventions, events and exhibitions?
The Silicon Valley as well as San Francisco and many other communities in the San Francisco Bay Area drive a significant amount of Meetings and Business Travel business to San Francisco from all over the world. The technology companies in San Francisco, the Silicon Valley and in the region host numerous meetings ranging in size from 10 to 60,000 people.

The upper floors of Moscone South were home to eight Education Studios, e.g. Innovation. At the session 'Leveraging Digital Transformation to Enhance Attendee Engagement', attendees learned, how at the ASD Market Week chatbot 'Savvy Sarah' gave answers to 7,000 questions, with a strike rate of 90 percent. Whether or not that is a satisfactory share was discussed in the queues at the Oxygen Bar or one of the Candy Bars, all these excellent opportunities to strike up conversations.

The networking events provided just the right setting for socializing: the Opening Reception at Pier 48, the Party with A Purpose' at The Masonic and the Closing Party at the Chase Center with a Maroon 5 concert. Even PCMA veterans were impressed by the hosting city. The event brought more than $14 million into San Francisco, but the long-term economic impact could be even more. Joe D’Alessandro, CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association, pointed out: "The exposure that we get to the world of meeting planners is really important for us and the opportunity to showcase some of the attributes the city has is really critical." Extending beyond the mere economic impact, PCMA president Karamat called to mind a statement by Simon Sinek in his keynote 'The Infinite Game' about how leaders make decisions, not organizations. "It's not about what matters for PCMA or where PCMA is going," he emphasized. "It's about where all of you are going, and what we can do together: advance this industry, advance our society."

“Be the leader you wish you had.”
Simon Sinek,
Keynote “The Infinite Game” at Convening Leaders 2020