I find it quite difficult to describe the anticipation in advance of my attendance at PCMA’s Convening EMEA conference, a two-day pan-European meeting for event professionals at the Swiss-Tech Convention Centre in Switzerland. On the one hand, there was the daunting but necessary form filling for the four different countries I would visit on my trip, combined with the sight nervousness and guilt of taking to the skies again. On the other hand, it had been a long time since I’d actually invested in my own education, just my own personal learning. I had chosen this particular conference because it was very much designed and targeted at people like me, business leaders and company owners, who were coming out of a period that was, quite frankly, transformational.
Part and parcel of international travel is of course exploring new destinations, and Lausanne and Lake Geneva did not disappoint. I’ll discuss the destination a bit further on in this article but I want to focus first of all on the content of the sessions.
Content for senior event professionals
As I mentioned above, what appealed to me most about the programme of the event was that the content was aimed at senior event professionals from across the industry. There was no talk of “pivoting” or “which platform” or sponsor and exhibitor strategy, it was about future strategy and growth.
The first keynote on Monday morning was delivered by Howard Yu who is LEGO professor of management and innovation at the IMD Business School. Howard helped us review some of the success stories of major international brands for the past 18 months looking at what had made them successful versus their competitors. He spoke about strategic resilience, that is, what it takes for a company to prosper in the long term. Howard also talked about the importance of balance between exploration and exploitation; ideally testing new products with small audiences before rolling them out, rather than testing products on the masses.
This really got me thinking that whilst I’ve set up Brightelm to be an innovative and thought-leading company, we mustn’t stop developing, and we must continue to offer the best value to our clients and be intuitive to their needs.
Is emotional intelligence more or less important than IQ?
This was followed by a session delivered by Cliff Lancey who explored the importance of emotional intelligence amongst leaders. Cliff is from the Emotional Intelligence Academy and he started the session with a very interesting question: whether it was important for business leaders to have either high emotional intelligence (EI) and low IQ, or a high IQ and low emotional intelligence.
The assumption of many is that a high IQ, equating to a high level of intelligence, might be more important for the leaders in our businesses, however, Cliff showed us it is in fact a high EI that is a more valuable trait, allowing us to feel, to think, to empathise which is especially valuable in a service orientated business like Brightelm.
Creating an invincible company
In the last keynote, delivered on Tuesday morning, Yves Pigneur of the University of Lausanne, introduced us to a new Business Model pattern that companies have successfully used to change their business models. Citing TED and Spotify as good examples of innovation, Yves talked through the process of how to formulate new strategies based on the assets that a business already has, and how to develop new products based on exploiting those assets.
What I took away from all three of these speakers was the importance of innovation and resilience to the future success of a business. It was also good to see how much of this we are already implementing at Brightelm (way to go team!). But what I’m most appreciated about the programme at this conference was that the content wasn’t necessarily event related. We have a lot of very good events-based content in our industry, a lot of it is free and all of it is delivered by our major event providers and publications. But I for one really appreciated how the programme was put together to inspire someone like myself who is a business leader and who is looking for new ideas and perhaps new energy. As a result of attending I can certainly go back to our Bristol, UK office buzzing with ideas about how we can continue developing the products and services we deliver for our clients.
Lausanne, a superb destination for business events
Switzerland as a destination for conferences is second to none in terms of efficiency, transport and logistics. But my resounding takeaway from this country, and the city, is its stunning beauty. Even the train ride from the airport to Lausanne was stunning on both sides; rolling hills filled with vineyards on the left and on the right the beautiful waterscape of Lake Geneva.
As usual, when professional events conferences are hosted by destinations, we really are well looked after. Sunday evening’s welcome reception at the Olympic Museum, overlooking the shores of the lake, was not just full of scenic views and tasty morsels of internationally themed canapes. We undoubtedly benefitted from a choice of venue that is synonymous with success and hard work, it’s hard to escape feeling inspired by such achievement.
This was followed by Monday evening’s sumptuous dinner at the 5* Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel; a beautiful four-course meal in a luxurious ballroom, accompanied with local entertainment by a traditional female vocal group (yodeling included) and finished off with a cheese and dessert buffet. To say that all my food dreams came true at the same time is no understatement.
PCMA in Europe
In summary, I’ve been very impressed by PCMA in Europe. Prior to 2020, I hadn’t ever interacted with the association but over the past few days, I have found myself among people who think like me, who are leaders in their own right. I leave Lausanne feeling inspired, ready to move my business in its next adventure. PCMA has allowed me both to reconnect with the European industry, some of whom I haven’t seen for 10 years, and make new connections who now will continue to be peers and, I hope, long-term friends.
I very much look forward to the next opportunity to collaborate and be inspired by this amazing group of people.
Author: Rob Eveleigh
Date: October 2021