PCOs of the future certainly have their work cut out for them.
I suspect that one of the greatest challenges will be that of working globally and delivering a global experience with a 'truly' local touch. Many PCOs feel the need to expand and expanding relates to setting the high standard international clients anticipate.
I imagine this challenge is faced by every company that expands its activities worldwide; how to meet and exceed clients’ expectations everywhere we work – in a world of diverse cultures and constantly changing business environments. To succeed, PCOs will have to bridge these gaps by moving their core activities that demand high levels of expertise, such as the scientific programmes, and centralising them to ensure quality.
Further, the image of PCOs in the market needs to improve dramatically, particularly when it comes to commissions and in turn, how PCOs make a profit. It will always be an issue when on one side you have people who are basically volunteers and perhaps cannot fully master business management and yet, are in control of a budget of millions and on the other side, there are PCOs who are only been hired to do one meeting. If you are a core PCO and you sign a deal to work with an organisation for several years you have more of a vested interest in working with your client as a long-term partner and being much more open in terms of how you do business and how you expect to get paid. This is not to say that one-time PCOs are not working in a similar manner to long term PCOs. However, by definition, long term relationships encompass additional considerations and transparency is a key issue to maintain client trust.
And finally, the future PCO will be challenged by competition. The market is saturated and there is a lot more competition. Increasingly, associations are looking at what else PCOs can offer in terms of innovation, knowledge and education. Once upon a time, it was all about logistics, but more recently, the emphasis is on content and knowledge. PCOs will also quickly realise that resources are becoming scarce. Returning clients will need to consider countless issues – from rotation policy (they can’t just go “anywhere they want” anymore), to meeting format (which may need to change and become more interactive to attract participants in the future), to new ways to raise funds. PCOs may very well have to look far and wide for new clients, let alone, the ability to retain existing clients. Success is in finding the balance – and with that, serving the client is first and foremost – from beginning to end, meeting and exceeding their needs every time – all the time.
The Perfect PCO
The perfect, or ‘ideal’ PCO, is all about integrity – defining, maintaining and ‘retaining’ it. Integrity is the core of any true partnership and so too, between PCOs and clients. The appointed PCO establishes and nurtures relationships with association and committee members, delegates, sponsors and exhibitors, and suppliers – behind the scenes and on site. In a word, the perfect PCO is the ultimate facilitator between all of the players involved in orchestrating and delivering a (no less than) perfect event.
This sense of omniscient leadership leading up to and during the event is indeed the PCO’s core responsibility, but no less important is the PCO’s event and industry knowledge, event growth, consistency, and in its ability to deliver a truly global experience with local expertise. This means – anywhere, at any location in the world. The PCO must also deliver continuity between events, skillfully managing and growing the society or association, leading up to the next event. Having served as a long term PCO for over five decades, I can say that we are defined and judged by our performance, delivery and the relationship we develop and maintain with our clients, from the initial handshake until the very last of the delegates has left the venue. Then the real work begins – nurturing and maintaining a long term or Core PCO relationship.
About the Author: Dan Rivlin, CEO
Dan Rivlin is the CEO of Kenes Group, one of the world’s leading Professional Conference Organizers (PCOs). Dan joined Kenes in 1993 and rose through the ranks of the organization holding senior managerial positions, including Operations Director, prior to becoming CEO in 1999. His vision and guidance coupled with accumulated experience and expertise gives Kenes Group its time-honoured stability and market presence. Dan holds a B.Sc. in Hospitality Management from Florida International University and an MBA, with a major in Management, from the University of Bradford, UK.
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