Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 01 2014

The Architect’s Architect

By Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP, Senior Vice President of Education & Meetings

Daniel Burnham is shaping up to be the patron saint of Convening Leaders 2015 — because he was a master collaborator.


Last month, I shared some thoughts about renowned architect and urban-planning pioneer Daniel Burnham.

His mantra “make no little plans” has become something of a rallying cry for my team when it comes to planning Convening Leaders 2015 in Chicago. As we continue our work toward creating a valuable experience for attendees, I’m learning even more about Burnham. It turns out his turn-of-the-century skill set was remarkably like that of today’s meeting professional. For one thing, he was a master collaborator.

From Jan. 10–12, 1891, Burnham brought the best architects he could find to the future site of the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition — where he more or less held an architecture conference. He wanted to tap into their experience and ideas, so they participated in big thinking and big planning. During those critical few days, Burnham found a way for these various architectural experts to work together to bring a very big vision to life.

Collaboration is something that we as meeting professionals do all the time, but do we even think about why or how we do it? Can we do a better job at collaborating to bring even more creativity and relevance to our face-to-face events?

As a meeting professional for an association of meeting professionals, I sort of identify with Burnham the architect convening a conference for architects. As the meeting planner for meeting planners, I’m often told that I have the most difficult job in the world, but I disagree. I think I have the best and most unique job there is. Why? Because I have at my disposal the cumulative knowledge of thousands of professionals, and between all of them, they have seen and done just about everything in this business. My goal is to tap into as many of their brains as I can, finding out from them what works well, what they want to see tried out at a live program, what types of education they want, and the list goes on. I’m trying to leverage the passion and commitment of the PCMA community to move this industry forward. To me, that’s collaboration at its best and highest level.

Right now, as we’re planning for Convening Leaders 2015, our collaboration with the industry is in full force. We’re tapping into the minds of all PCMA’s task forces, including the Medical Meetings Task Force, Corporate Task Force, Exhibit Managers Task Force, and many others, to uncover what education is truly needed in these spaces, and in what format. We’re talking to people outside our industry as well in the hopes that they can inspire us to new ways of thinking about our business. And of course, we’re collaborating with our hosts at Choose Chicago and McCormick Place, who promise to give our attendees an amazing experience.

If I’ve ever called or emailed you to ask your opinion or thoughts on something, I want to say thank you for being an active part of our collaboration process. If you have ideas you want to share with me, I want to hear them!

Our Blueprints

Next month, I’ll share with you how our education strategy for Convening Leaders 2015 will leave you with a strong desire to tap your inner architect. In the meantime, please mark your calendars for Jan. 11–14, 2015, in Chicago.

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