PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2024 shares bold plans for global expansion, sustainability, and advancing gender equality

PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) and CEMA (Corporate Event Marketing Association) president and CEO Sherrif Karamat highlighted the global business events industry’s growth and transformation during a business keynote during Convening Leaders 2024 in San Diego, California.

Emphasising the importance of thinking bigger and beyond traditional mandates post-pandemic, PCMA has expanded its event portfolio through acquisitions, partnerships, and new products, aiming to deliver a better experience for the global business events industry.

PCMA and CEMA president and CEO Sherrif Karamat speaking at Convening Leaders 2024

“By 2025, PCMA plans to connect with over 10,000 business event professionals at live events on four continents, with a global community exceeding 35,000 people,” said Karamat. “We are thinking bigger, we are thinking bolder and always aiming to be better, not because we can, but because we must in order to make our community’s world a better place.”

PCMA’s expansion and its commitment to sustainability were also highlighted, along with updates to AI startup Spark, co-founded with Gevme, to enhance event productivity.

Next, Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO of Business Events Sydney (BESydney) joined Karamat to address the gender disparity in leadership within the industry, proposing a coalition to advance women into senior roles.

The session concluded with announcements of future initiatives, including the industry’s first Sustainability and Climate Summit in Barcelona and the inaugural Convening LATAM in Bogota, Colombia.

The following is a summary of the key announcements:

Sustainability and climate tech
In 2023, PCMA announced a partnership with the American Geophysical Union which has since delivered on multiple initiatives including workshops, sessions, and approaches to strategy. PCMA also announced a partnership with the Strategic Alliance of National Convention Bureaux in Europe representing 29 countries.

In the same year, the association also appointed its first head of global sustainability. Through these partnerships and investments, the industry’s first Sustainability and Climate Summit will be held in conjunction with Convening EMEA in Barcelona from October 2–3, 2024.

In the coming months, further details of the programme, how to engage and what to expect, will be made available.

Advancing women in business events leadership
The PCMA Foundation and BESydney released the first of its two-part findings of a new global study into Advancing Women in Business Events. Last year, research was conducted to explore the pronounced gender gap in the global business events industry.

PCMA and BESydney believe that a diverse and inclusive leadership team is not just a strategic advantage, but a fundamental necessity for the industry’s sustained success. By fostering an environment that values and promotes the unique perspectives and talents of women, both organisations aim to set a standard for excellence and innovation.

“The World Economic Forum last year predicted it would be 131 years until gender parity could be achieved globally. This is unacceptable, and as leaders of an industry with a strong female talent pool, we need to take collective and bold action to accelerate progress towards equitable leadership for all.

“Whether it’s diversity of gender, or race, age, ability or cultural background, new and alternate perspectives are the backbone of innovation and good decision-making. Diversity in Board and CEO leadership ranks isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense for our sector’s resilience globally,” said Lewis-Smith.

Part II of the report, scheduled for release in the next few months, will present recommendations for actions that companies and individuals can implement to address the challenges outlined in the initial report released during Convening Leaders 2024. It also will present evidence for why women are ideally suited for leadership roles and why their leadership attributes and skills are critical to the success of the business events industry of the future.

For additional details and to download the report, visit The Advancing Women in the Business Events Industry Study Part I.

Spark AI updates
Launched in 2023, Spark is now the go-to AI productivity tool for nearly 5,000 event organisers in more than 40 countries. According to Convene magazine, 64 per cent of business event professionals are currently using generative AI to manage their events, while corporations and organisations are exploring how Spark can be integrated into their entire enterprise event operations.

Spark Takeaways is the latest enhancement to the Spark platform. Introduced during Convening Leaders 2024, Spark Takeaways analyses streaming content in real-time, distills pivotal insights and summaries and generates Key Takeaways, Idea Cloud, and a comprehensive Summary from live sessions. Spark Takaways was made available to all participants at the end of the daily general sessions via a QR code on the mainstage screens.

“The insights and ideas generated by Spark Takeaways are not only insightful, but also easily shareable,” said Veemal Gungadin, Gevme’s CEO. “This feature will amplify the reach of an event’s content and potentially make it go viral. Additionally, our commitment to inclusivity is evident in our multilingual capabilities. Participants can listen to a session in one language and access the takeaways in another.”

During Business Events Industry Week in Washington, DC, (April 8-11, 2024) Spark will be hosting an AgendAi workshop. AgendAi will help participants understand which part of their business can benefit from generative AI and to craft their own AI-driven plans for productivity and performance with their business partners. Additional details will be available soon on the BEIW website.

Convening LATAM 2025
Come May 4-7, 2025, PCMA will hold the inaugural Convening LATAM in Bogota, Colombia.

Convening LATAM 2025 will provide a unique opportunity for the business events industry to be part of LATAM’s transformative moment. Participants will gain compelling insights from thought leaders on event design, sustainability, innovation, and audience engagement using AI within a collaborative community. Over the next few months, PCMA will share additional programme updates.

“PCMA firmly believes in the pivotal role of business events in catalysing social and economic transformation,” said Karamat. “In the dynamic landscape of LATAM, these events serve as catalysts for an evolutionary shift, ingeniously reshaping and redefining regional challenges into boundless opportunities.”