Business Events Industry Week Showcases Collaboration

Award winners and nominees on stage at the PCMA Visionary Awards 2024

Skift Take

Washington, D.C. was buzzing with a wide array of gatherings focused on different sectors of the meetings and events industry during Business Events Industry Week.

Business Events Industry Week (BEIW) is a collaborative event that aims to be the industry’s South by Southwest. It was born as a collaboration between the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and Destinations International (DI). The event’s third edition concluded on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

“Events are a vital part of the travel industry, a cornerstone of the U.S. economy,” said Nicole Porter, vice president of political affairs for the U.S. Travel Association, during a Global Meetings Industry Day celebration sponsored by the PCMA Capital Chapter during BEIW.

Born under the shadow of the Covid pandemic, PCMA and DI joined forces three years ago to deliver the first event themed the “Power of Purpose.” This inaugural edition took place at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington, D.C. This year, the majority of BEIW was held at the city’s largest convention space, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

“In 2022, the inaugural BEIW started by deliberately aligning multiple industry events in a single week. Since then, Destination DC and Events DC have been in discussions with industry partners to bring BEIW downtown and proactively identify availability that coincides with Global Meetings Industry Day,” says Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of Destination DC.

Destination DC and partner organization Events DC hosted the event, which also featured events organized by the International Association of Exhibition and Events (IAEE), the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association (LGBT MPA) and the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP).

“Business Events Industry Week provides a platform to emphasize how intentional collaboration can enhance engagement and extend our industry’s reach, while also fostering unity, enthusiasm, and recognition within our profession,” says Ferguson.

Awards Steal the Show

A highlight for many was the PCMA Foundation Visionary Awards, a long-time tradition of PCMA. The awards recognize and honor those who have significantly impacted and contributed to their organizations and companies. This black-tie event was a true celebration, recognizing four Lifetime Achievement Honorees and 22 Professional Excellence Finalists across seven categories. Click here for all the winners.

The Visionary Awards raised $678,000 for the PCMA Foundation, which focuses on scholarships, education, and research. Fashion Show, held the day before, was another PCMA Foundation fundraiser. Billed as a celebration of authenticity, pride, and compassion, it raised an additional $105,027.

Another central event of BEIW was Showcase, held on Wednesday, April 10. This one-day event organized by PCMA and DI showcased several destinations in a trade-show style setup dubbed “experiential activations.” It was promoted as a place to connect with venues, destinations, and tech providers through activations.

Two theaters on the expo floor featured interesting industry speakers and a tech campfire area. Keith Johnston, managing partner of i3 Events, led a session on AI, and Dahlia El Gazzar, CEO of Dahlia+ Agency, demonstrated how Apple Vision Pro can help event planners. Far from the buzz of an IMEX show floor, some exhibitors questioned the event’s return on investment.

A Multitude of Partner Events

ICCA hosted The Future of Association Meetings and Societal Transformation, a half-day event held at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) headquarters. The ICCA event was interactive, including table talks that proved to be extremely collaborative.

NCBMP held a gathering at the Washington Post Building on the effects of toxic corporate culture. Sharinda Williams-Simmons, chief creative officer at The PTO Nomad, was the featured speaker. Following the education session, many gathered on an outdoor deck to enjoy the glorious spring day and stunning views.

In addition, the sold-out IAEE Women’s Leadership Forum was held at the convention center. Its topics included adapting to change, thinking creatively, and avoiding burnout. Despite Skift Meetings’ efforts to register for and cover this event, IAEE was not able to accommodate.

A recurrent theme of the week was that there is no replacement for in-person engagement. These gatherings drove this message home.

Tech Event Impresses

Credit: Dahlia El Gazzar

Although not part of BEIW, the Salesforce World Tour took over the lower level of the DC convention center on April 10, with many BEIW attendees also exploring this event. The Salesforce event featured keynotes, activations, and more, all highlighting the latest AI innovations transforming businesses of all types.

“What impressed me about the Salesforce World Tour was the buzz on the entire floor with drinks in hand, sessions happening, seats full, exhibitors engaged with attendees and each other. The design of the show was solid, it was great fun from the registration area with memorable interactive badges, to signage that incentivized you to take surveys, to reps dressed as park rangers to help you navigate your journey through the entire conference. This was in direct contrast to the Showcase that was poorly designed,” said El Gazzar.

D.C. in the Spotlight

Receptions and dinners were held in venues throughout the city. “Business Events Industry Week offers us a chance to showcase Washington, D.C.,” says Ferguson.

The city boasts several neighborhoods that have emerged as prime options for hosting meetings. These areas feature robust infrastructure, including what is referred to as a “connected campus” of meeting spaces. These areas, such as Union Market, NoMA, the Wharf, and Navy Yard, offer a cluster of walkable hotels and desirable amenities.

“We’re excited to witness the increasing interest in pre- and post-stays among clients, media, and colleagues, as they eagerly embrace the warmer weather and explore the city’s myriad attractions and global cuisine. This underscores our message of ‘Only One DC,’ emphasizing the unique value that our destination brings to meetings and events,” says Ferguson.

Photo credit: EPNAC / PCMA