New York City played host to PCMA’s 2017 Education Conference June 11–14, 2017, bringing together more than 800 meeting professionals at the New York Marriott Marquis for four days of education and training sessions. Some highlights of the conference included half-day off-site sessions at six unique meeting spaces—a first for PCMA, as well as a rousing success—plus the opening and closing receptions.

On Sunday, June 11, NYC & Company hosted a glamourous reception at world-famous Rockefeller Center. Attendees enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, followed by renditions of Broadway tunes both old and new by Katie Rose Clarke of Miss Saigon, Lindsay Mendez of Significant Other and Rashidra Scott of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Monday’s education sessions kicked off with a panel featuring NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon and Loews Hotels’ Chairman and CEO Jonathan Tisch. PCMA President and CEO Deborah Sexton quizzed the two industry luminaries on the state of meetings. The potential impact of a US travel ban on the events industry was a hot topic, especially the possibility that such legislation might send the message that the US is discouraging travel and meetings business. Dixon shared how NYC & Company’s New York City Welcomes the World campaign is meant to help dispel these fears.

Tisch discussed his family’s hands-on approach to managing and growing their hotel chains by connecting with people, revealing how his father liked to attend the meetings at his hotels to keep his ear to the ground.

At lunch, Alan Steel, president and CEO of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, discussed some of the improvements the convention center is making, as well as how his team is working hard to meet the needs of both attendees and planners. The 1.8 million-square-foot center is currently undergoing a large-scale expansion and renovation that will nearly double its footprint. The Javits Center also features a 6.75-acre green roof that is home to some 300,000 bees, not to mention 17 bird species.

PCMA worked with NYC & Company to plan off-site sessions for attendees on June 12 with a special twist—topics and locations were kept secret until the last minute. Groups fanned out across the City to experience six different meeting venues: Convene at 117 West 46th Street, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom, the Microsoft Store–Fifth Avenue, the New Amsterdam Theatre and Central Park’s Tavern on the Green.

Each session was tailored to attendees’ interests as gleaned from the registration data they provided, with topics ranging from data to design thinking to disruption within the meetings industry. In the months leading up to the conference, NYC & Company team members collaborated with PCMA to find venues that would reflect the content of the off-site sessions.

Convene at 117 West 46th Street 
117 W. 46th St., Times Square/Theatre District, Manhattan
Design thinking was the topic of the large breakout session held at this Convene conference center, one of Convene’s eight purpose-built modern meeting venues located throughout the City. Attendees heard about the most important questions to ask meeting stakeholders and event partners from Convene’s in-house event design expert Joyce Bromberg.

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
655 W. 34th St., Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan
A session on disruption was held at the Javits Center, where three events-industry luminaries led a discussion focused around the growing emphasis on ROI, design thinking, creating more-evolved show plans and other hot topics.

Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom
311 W. 34th St., Midtown West, Manhattan
The Manhattan Center’s soaring 10,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom was the setting for a session on production design. Four veterans of New York City’s theater scene shared showbiz tricks that help increase engagement at meetings and events.

Microsoft Store–Fifth Avenue
677 Fifth Ave., Midtown East, Manhattan
A session on data was held at Microsoft’s Fifth Avenue flagship store. Attendees tested some of the tech giant’s latest products in between presentations from data experts.

New Amsterdam Theatre
214 W. 42nd St., Times Square/Theatre District, Manhattan
The former home of the Ziegfeld Follies was the setting for a session on imagination and creativity. Attendees received tips on bolstering team communications from Disney Institute experts, who also spoke on the creative vision behind The Lion King, one of Disney’s hit Broadway musicals.

Tavern on the Green 
1 Tavern on the Green (67th St & Central Park West), Central Park, Manhattan
Central Park’s beloved restaurant was the backdrop for a session on leadership. Attendees learned about using storytelling to package ideas from two professors from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Tuesday’s education sessions at the New York Marriott Marquis helped attendees dig deeper into the themes introduced on the first day of the conference, with sessions on how creativity, design thinking, technology and other disrupters are reshaping the way event strategists are engaging attendees. There were also several crowdsourced sessions, as well as business incubator workshops and product demonstrations. On Wednesday, Luke Williams, best-selling author and globally recognized authority on disruptive innovation, delivered a keynote that included several examples of how the rapid pace of global change has created opportunities across several industries, after which attendees had the opportunity to get in a bit more networking before venturing out to experience all that New York City has to offer on special excursions organized by NYC & Company.

EduCon’s closing reception at the Central Park Zoo, hosted by NYC & Company, added some furry friends into the mix. In addition to animal encounters, attendees enjoyed cocktails, small bites and some fantastic live entertainment—a fitting farewell to an action-packed conference.