PCO Association Conference 2013 Summary: Doing More With Less

Posted by | December 02, 2013 | Event Planner News | No Comments

This year’s 6th Annual PCO Association Conference 2013 was a blast. The energy was great, and the topics covered were relevant. Here’s my takeaways from the event especially for those who were unable to attend.

There were multiple sessions which covered various statistics and trends in the meetings industry. As a quick summary, here’s what they had to say:

  1. Dr Frang Gelber – his presentation indicated a soft Australian economy, largely due to a high Aussie dollar and a weaker commodities market. This would seem to be hindering the rebound of many export-exposed industries like events and meetings.
  2. Belinda Doery (AMEX Meetings and Events) – presented on AMEX’s recent study which predicts a decrease in volumes, attendees, lead times and spend for meetings in Asia-Pacific.
  3. Bryon Merzeo (STR Global) – showed that in Australia, there seems to be an undersupply of rooms which points to possible rate increases in the future.

These trends clearly indicate that times are tough and businesses are looking to spend where they can clearly see benefits and results.

Simply put, many events are now looking to do the same with less or in some cases more and many businesses are looking for great justification in spending at these events.


There were a few sessions that covered the importance of innovation for businesses and indeed professional service businesses in general. What is clear is that without innovation, businesses simply compete on cost which then becomes a race to the bottom.

Whilst innovation is widely acknowledged as a requirement to build sustainable businesses, few have understood how to be innovative, especially in a service driven business when what is offered for sale isn’t a tangible product. Perhaps some of this difficulty is partly to do with the loose definition of “innovation” which is often used to decribe something “new”.

Roger La Salle, an innovation consultant who has appeared on numerous occasions as a judge on ABC New Inventor’s TV Programme, defines it best:

Innovation is change that adds value – Roger La Salle

This simple definition could be applied to almost any business operation where value for a PCO would be either a reduction in costs or an increase in revenue. This might be the way you handle registrations, or programme updates, or simply efficiencies in how your event team communicates. And Roger’s cited examples clearly indicates that even simple ideas, like a tab to make it easier to open and get a new toothbrush, can deliver incredible business results.

In conjunction, Craig Rispin technology presentation made it loud and clear that there are many available solutions that can already help improve meetings and events today. He highlighted that the world of the smartphone and internet is upon all of us and how it is possible to utilise these technologies to dramatically improve the reach and success of an event.

Given we are an Conference App and Tradeshow App provider, it was music to our ears and we certainly hope many PCO’s out there think the same way. For us, we hope that we can provide our customers with an incredible product and will add value by removing rework and provide valuable channel of communication which is personal and mobile.

Social Media and Internet Marketing

The era of online marketing is hear, with many businesses relying on this medium to reach their target audiences. The world of events is not immune to this.

Judging by the reaction to the topics and the questions raised, it would appear that many PCO’s seem to be struggling with how to engage social media and to leverage it to further their businesses. The concepts of sharing, and giving away IP seem foreign and indeed counter intuitive. Indeed, many PCO’s are seeing that because their own clients aren’t on social media, they don’t have to bother with it either, giving up and placing it into the too hard basket.

So we’re going to do our best to blog and provide as much information to educate and to help PCOs catch up to their UK and US counterparts who have already started down this road and are already achiving great results at their events.


With tightening budgets and a changing technology stage, it would seem that for the PCOs of today looking to grow and expand will need to find some way to innovate in order to stay ahead of the game. Some of this will be hard, involving clients who may not be ready for changes. Others will be simpler.

Remembering that innovation is change that adds value. The key will be to find simple changes that bring some improvement to the table. The hard part is building a learning organisation that gets good at nurturing, identifying and capitalising on these changes.

Perfection is lots of little things done well – Marco Pierre White (Australian MasterChef)

In the pervious series of MasterChef, Marco’s quote is something we could all relate to. A lot of little things done well can, in the end, produce a great product. And in the case of PCO companies, it will be the key to a sucessful, innovative event planning business.

Thank you

Would like to thank the organising committee of the PCO Association. They did a great job! I met some great people and hope to stay in touch. May the lessons from PCO13 inspire all of us to press forward through what seems to be economically challenging times.

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