The Business of Business Events

Skift Take

Between the emergence of AI and the potential of mergers and acquisitions, change may be coming to events industry associations.

Sheriff Karamat is the CEO of PCMA (formerly known as the Professional Convention Management Association). He began his career in sports, working for the Canadian soccer team, the Toronto Blizzard. After the North American Soccer League ended, he moved into the hotel industry at the suggestion of the team’s owner, who owned several hotels. Here he became more familiar with business events. He went on to work for the convention visitors bureau in Toronto, now known as Destination Toronto, before moving to PCMA in 2003 as chief operations officer and later CEO. 

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The Strategic Importance of Terminology

Oftentimes business events are considered to be part of tourism, but they are two separate industries, and Karamat believes it is important to consider and refer to them as such. Business events help drive economic good for organizations, communities, and individuals. In addition to the economic impact, they also have a social impact and help with knowledge sharing. Using the correct terminology not only helps businesses and governments understand the economic impact events can have on a local, national, and global scale, but it also allows for a greater understanding of the profession and how it can contribute to change in a wider business sense.

Generating Transformative Impacts

Transformative impacts are what make events great. To achieve this, Karamat is adamant that planners consider the event design. Turning attendees into active participants who can share their knowledge and expertise is paramount. You also need to consider the room, its layout and dressing to ensure that these elements also help facilitate greater engagement and participation. Implementing these will help participants leave an event feeling that they have tangible information to take away, which can help transform them personally. It also benefits them when they return to their company and may even filter into their communities. 

Evolving Industry Associations

Governments and associations often evolve and progress slower than corporate organizations. Karamat admits they need to improve to keep pace and continue attracting the best talent. That could mean adopting new technologies faster, trying things they otherwise would have shied away from, and continuing to innovate and be creative. 

Looking Ahead

There are now hundreds of associations serving the business events sector worldwide, but this does not necessarily best serve the event professionals in the industry well. Karamat is certain there will be more mergers, acquisitions, and collaborations in the future, even if these may face initial resistance.

Event professionals are also becoming increasingly aware of where they spend their money. Membership fees for associations and professional bodies may instead be used to access content or communities managed by external for-profit organizations. This move may stem from the feeling that the associations are repeatedly delivering the same content, experiences, and knowledge without any innovation or creativity. Moving forward, Karamat thinks associations need to be open to all ideas. This is the only way to continue attracting and engaging with event professionals, ensuring their satisfaction and the association’s success. 

The Transformative Power of AI for Business Event Professionals

Following on from the recent launch of Project Spark, a collaboration between PCMA and Gevme, Karamat is naturally bullish on AI. He believes it can be transformative for business event professionals. It is already able to take away some of the daily mundane tasks for planners. It can also allow them to be more productive as they are able to focus on tasks that will deliver value and results. This is just the start and there is a lot more to come.

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