Earlier this year, I participated in two events at the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Convening Leaders conference in Las Vegas. The organization asked me to create a workshop on its “7 Change Actions” learning experience and to moderate the sessions that took place on the 7 Change Actions Stage. To do this, I first had to learn this innovative framework.

Developed by PCMA, the 7 Change Actions is a seven-module learning experience, designed to help event leaders navigate the challenging times we are living in. The course is comprised of amazing content that helps you think differently and/or use frameworks to help redesign your event or business.

For my workshop, I did a deep dive into three of the Change Actions — and what a learning experience it was! I also moderated five sessions on the stage, getting the opportunity to participate in thought-provoking conversations on topics that impact how all business-event strategists operate today.

These are the five topics that resonated with me the most during my experience at the event.

1. Collaboration

One of the 7 Change Actions I covered in my workshop was collaboration. I love and have studied this topic for years, so it was fun to bring some of my insights into the workshops.

As Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” So, as part of looking to change business models, event strategies, etc., we need to first look at collaboration in new ways to help us get there. To start, we must determine how to fix the issues that inhibit collaboration and innovation. These issues include:

  • Functional goals superseding shared outcomes from the collaboration project
  • Unclear decision-making processes
  • Lack of effective rhythm for communicating, collaborating and learning
  • Lack of understanding concerning the function of other team members

There are several ways to fix these, but let’s focus on the difference between coordination, cooperation and collaboration. Coordination involves looking at the structure and architecture; alignment of activities and information; and mechanics of the project, team and meetings. Cooperation, on the other hand, focuses on creating a collaborative environment, aligning goals and human behavior, and creating motivation. And, finally, collaboration is working together to create something new in support of a shared vision. Both elements of coordination and cooperation need to be considered to ensure the collaboration can be successful.

2. Measurement

On the 7 Change Actions Stage, Nicole Moreo, EVP, head of U.S. Analytics at Ketchum, presented “The Return on Events: Measuring and Reporting Your Value.” Measurement is about counting or documenting results of a campaign, but the real magic happens by producing knowledge and insights that support real-time optimizations, future strategy and creative executions. Don’t fall for vanity metrics such as the number of butts in seats. You need to ask why you are tracking something in the first place — what is your “so what?” Start with the end in mind. What or who are you trying to influence? That is when you get into asking the right questions that can help you drive your event or business.

As Moreo says, “As problem-solvers, we are very eager to give the business/our boss/the client the right key we believe will fix their issue and cause the change they want to see. Every key in our toolbox is useless if we don’t find which lock we need to put it in first — the one that is ultimately responsible for changing the situation [or] behavior.”

As you know, there is an infinite number of things you can measure. The following framework from Ketchum is a great example of how you should think about what you should measure and why.


KPI Framework/Measurement Plan developed by Ketchum

Moreo, who is on the board of the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), said during her presentation that AMEC has free resources that provide additional frameworks to help you decide how you can and should be measuring your events. Check it out and see if you can use any of these tools to look like a rockstar!


Framework developed by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC)

3. Focus on Storytelling

The second session I moderated on the stage, “Making More with Less: Content Hacks to Drive Engagement and ROI,” was led by Bob Hitchcock, senior director of content marketing at LegalZoom. First and foremost, Hitchcock is a storyteller, and he stressed that storytelling is really all about creating emotion. (He worked for Disney for 11 years in PR and content marketing, after all, so he knows what he is talking about.)

During the session, he told a story about how to make meaningful content using video. LegalZoom wanted to showcase how easy it is to start a business with the service, and they wanted to launch a video in conjunction with National Hispanic Heritage Month. Once they found a successful entrepreneur from the Latino community, Hitchcock went to work. This example showed how easy it was to create content that costs nothing, other than time to create some questions, and to film and edit (using free software) the video. Think about how you can easily create something that can evoke emotion without having a hefty expense hitting your P&L!

4. Skillsets and Ingenious Thinking

This session titled “Build the Event Team of the Future by Unlocking Cross-Functional Collaboration” was pretty fun and featured an engaging panel with Michael Guillory and Nicole O’Leary from The Expo Group and Jay Weintraub of Connectiv. In addition to the power of collaboration, they focused on skillsets of the team and ingenious thinking:

  • Skillsets: Project management, along with strategy and execution skills, will be in high demand. Hiring managers should look for talent who can work in the gray area (which we have been living in for the past two years) and are intuitive and diverse. Ask yourself: Are we hiring using those criteria, or are we just filling in the gaps left by the pandemic? Determine what your future looks like and hire for that need.
  • Ingenious thinking: Look for exponential versus incremental changes and growth. Lean into your partners. Use the “kill or keep” exercise to clean your slate of events. Determine what your clients/attendees need now and only keep those who meet the new need.

Part of the ingenious thinking discussion was discipline and focus. In my personal experience, if you have more than three to five KPIs or headline metrics, you have too many. Take the time to figure out what you are really trying to accomplish and focus only on those things. There are only so many resources to go around, so make sure they are focused on the right things.

Lastly, Weintraub said that one of the things that has made him successful in starting, building and selling events was “making everyone feel special” on his team. How cool is that? Is that a core value or mandate in your organization?

5. Delivering Value

One of the other 7 Change Actions I went over during my workshop was value delivery and creation. PCMA worked with Mark Payne of Fahrenheit 212 to help determine how to deliver value to your customers, while serving the needs of the business (aka generating revenue).

As event leaders, we are good at brainstorming ideas on all the things we could do to make things more fun or engaging or easy or…you get my point. What is generally missing is, how do you tie those new, innovative ideas into revenue-generating opportunities? The following framework is a good start. It looks at the needs of the consumer (or event attendee, exhibitor, etc.) and the needs of the business (or association/organization).

Make sure you are looking at both sides of this two-sided solution. You can check out this YouTube video to see some frameworks Payne created that you could use to help solve this problem.

The world is very different from what it was two years ago, and we need to look at new ways to learn about, and serve, our audiences or customers. The 7 Change Actions framework was built specifically for event professionals but can also apply to most business problems. It is a great resource if you want a methodology that can help you and your team think differently. But don’t forget to coordinate and cooperate before you collaborate and do your best to make people feel special!

Heidi (Voorhees) Haneberg, CAE, is the senior vice president of strategic projects at MCI USA.