Pondering The Future With PCMA, VEI and … Event Camp?

Note: The thoughts expressed in this post are my own.


Recently, the Virtual Edge Institute (VEI) announced that it received a strategic investment from the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). Michelle Bruno, in her Fork In the Road blog, provided some great insights on this partnership, in a posting titled “Why PCMA’s Investment in the Virtual Edge Institute Means More than Just Cash.”

Michelle commended PCMA for endorsing an open source model “to unlock the innovation around virtual and hybrid event technology.” I think PCMA should create a trifecta by making a strategic investment in Event Camp (EC). Commenting on this point via Twitter, Michelle tweeted, “Agree. Event Camp Europe gave me the idea about open source innovation in event context.”

Let’s dive into the potential benefits.


Event Camp has achieved great things to date. They’ve used their own hybrid events (“Event Camps”) to experiment and innovate on meeting and event planning. They’ve reached these heights primarily from the passion of their volunteer organizers and secondarily from supporting sponsors.

And while I believe that innovation can result from budgetary constraints, imagine the possibilities with an investment from an organization such as PCMA. I believe that a stronger financial foothold will create ever more innovative and engaging Event Camps.


Event Camp meetings would have a lot to gain by colocating with PCMA gatherings, in the same way that Virtual Edge Summit benefited from its colocation with PCMA Convening Leaders.

In the future, this trifecta could kick off the calendar year with colocation of three events (in one): PCMA Convening Leaders, Virtual Edge Summit and Event Camp National Conference. Given that several PCMA members are key contributors to Event Camp, colocation makes all the more sense.

In addition, there are additional PCMA events that may stand to benefit from VEI and EC involvement, such as the mid-year PCMA Education Conference.

Feeder Organization

Talk about synergy. Event Camp can spin out innovation via experimentation. The innovation fostered is then fleshed out, refined and documented. In this way, Event Camp becomes a feeder organization into Virtual Edge Institute’s certification programs and PCMA’s educational programs.

Open Source Innovation

Jenise Fryatt (@JeniseFryatt) did a great interview with Nick Balestra (@nickbalestra) about Event Camp Europe titled, “Using Open Source to Remix Your Event.” According to Balestra, “creating events can be somehow similar, so taking an open-source approach while thinking about your events can lead to  smarter ways to create them.”

As Michelle Bruno stated in her piece, PCMA and VEI are supporting an open source model for the benefit of the entire events community. Event Camp, with their model built around “innovation from experimentation” would be a perfect fit for this open source event model to further grow and flourish.


I have a dream to one day visit every major league baseball park in the U.S. and Canada. On the meetings and events side, perhaps I’ll one day be able to attend PCMA Convening Leaders, Virtual Edge Summit and Event Camp in one fell swoop. As for the MLB parks, that’ll have to wait till retirement.

Related Posts

  1. My Thoughts: Virtual Edge Institute’s Digital Event Strategist Certification


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10 Responses to Pondering The Future With PCMA, VEI and … Event Camp?

  1. Traci Browne says:

    Dennis, Thank you for putting this out there. As one of those volunteer organizers of EventCamp East Coast I think it’s a wonderful idea. I would love to see our industry organizations, not just PCMA embrace EventCamps. But sadly we are seen as a competitor that should be eliminated. At least this is the reaction I’ve gotten from many of the East Coast Chapters of MPI and PCMA.

    We are not even asking for any money, although that would help. We are just asking chapters to let their members know about EventCamp East Coast. Just a simple e-mail and put on their calendar to help us get the word out. We can barely even get a return call let alone help.

    Perhaps the issue is there is no money in it for anyone. There is no revenue to be generated. We keep costs to attend at the break even point (in reality even lower) so that more people can participate. In the spirit of collaboration, more heads are better. The volunteer organizers are usually the biggest investor in the event. Not just in their time but money as well.

    Perhaps, if you can persuade the folks at the top that EventCamps are worth a closer look, more people could have the opportunity to attend. What I would not like to see happen is for the event to become a profit center. I’d prefer to see the price to attend go down even more. I can’t tell you how many college students that wanted to come and could not. Even at our break even pricing it is still out of their reach.

    • Dennis Shiao says:

      Traci: thanks for your comment. It’s my hope that other event and meeting associations begin to see the value that Event Camp brings – and that by working together, the entire industry can benefit.

  2. Dennis:

    Have you been to a PCMA Convening Leaders Annual Conference before? PCMA is known for experimenting at that event. You’ll often hear their leaders say that PCMA will experiment with their meeting so that its members can learn from their successes and failures and can implement what works. Thir leadership has an open mind about trying new and different things already.

    I personally don’t think PCMA Convening Leaders in January is the appropriate place for co-locating EventCamp. Why? Because EventCamp is focused on the intersection of social media, event technology and meetings…a vary narrow niche in my opinion. PCMA’s Convening Leaders focuses on a lot more than that. It also has 4,000+ attendees and the EventCamp experience would not scale well for that many people at one time.

    I think EventCamp would do better being co-located with BlogWorld where they would have access to some of the greatest minds in social media and blogging. In my opinion, the event and meetings industry has to start reaching outside of its industry to find innovation. Some of the thought leaders at BlogWorld would challenge many traditionally held meetings processes. That would be good for meeting professionals.

    • Dennis Shiao says:

      Jeff: I attended Convening Leaders this year, but only because I arrived at Virtual Edge Summit a day early. For 2012, I’ll have to attend all of Convening Leaders and check out the Learning Lounge.

      My posting covered two angles: colocation and “feeder organization.” I’d be interested in your thoughts on Event Camp as a feeder organization (into PCMA).

  3. Whenever two organizations co-locate there has to be a win-win for both of them. I get the benefit for PCMA but I am not seeing the benefit for EventCamp to co-locate with PCMA and VEI.

    • Dennis Shiao says:

      Jeff: I bet Event Camp would benefit by having the space (facility) provided. But to my other point, I view colocation as a small component of a potential tie-up. I think it’s more about funneling the output of Event Camp experimentation back into other organizations, such as PCMA.

  4. Hi Dennis, Michelle, Traci and Jeff,

    Some interesting thoughts here. Thanks for getting the ball rolling! I agree and have pondered the question with Nick Balestra @nbalestra and the #ECEU team (@jenisefryatt @eventsforgood and @planetplanitbiz).

    As initiator and co-founders of EventCamp Europe and contributor to the industry at large I am a sceptic of co-locating events unless the have completely complementary objectives. If even a small subset of the objectives overlap it will be extremely hard to build up a cohesive onsite experience for the visitors of one or the other event.

    I do think Eventcamp could be instrumental in facilitating, coordinating and orchestrating constructive PODs in offsite locations of an event that is already taking place and willing to engage audiences in hybrid ways. It will however require a partnership where the objective setting, format, content and engagement strategy need to be crafted based on the learnings of Event Camps with PODs.

    I for one would be open for exploring such options as I think expanding the audience where amazing content is being created is a wonderfull way of expanding the reach of an already succesful live event. I have experimented with this with the TED conference last year and contributed to a number of proprietary and association events. The learning from running events with PODs and hybrid audiences is a key development for the industry at large with many, many learning points and growth opportunities for all involved.

    I encourage industry assoications to join the dialoge or contact met at http://www.tnoc.ch or on twitter at @ruudwjanssen to explore further options that make business sense.
    Ruud Janssen

    • Dennis Shiao says:

      Ruud: thanks for sharing your insights. You make a great point about PODs. If hybrid events are the future, then we have a lot of experimentation and refining to do around the POD experience.

      It’s great to see Event Camp(s) leading the dialog on this front – looking forward to watching this develop. I have yet to experience an EC from a POD, but it’s on my todo list!

  5. There is something to be said for having event camps remain independent, i.e. not co-locate or become consumed by the “military industrial complex” of the industry. On the other hand, I believe that financial support without any oversight or “interference” from supporting associations could be a good thing for all the reasons that Traci mentioned. I wonder if there is a compromise?

    I love the idea of co-operation between EventCamps and larger associations in the form of pods. Maybe this is where ECs could really inject their expertise and love of innovation working with the local association chapters. The Association’s blessing would be needed of course and as Traci said, they aren’t on board yet.

    Another thought also occurred to me. It could be in the best interest of PCMA or any of the big guns to support EventCamp efforts: if ECs do their jobs well, they will begin attracting more event planners. Then companies/industry suppliers will notice and rather than support the large associations and have to jockey for position all the time, it’s possible they could opt to re-direct some of their of resources away from the associations and toward EventCamps. It’s a David and Goliath situation right now, but I believe that anything is possible in this climate.

    Loving this discussion. Thanks Dennis.

    • Dennis Shiao says:

      Thanks, Michelle – and, thanks for seeding this entire thread with your original post on the topic. Compromise and cooperation. I like those words.

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