PCMA’s Capital Chapter held its annual meeting the other night, although “held” might be too stuffy a term. Can you throw an annual meeting? Because that’s what Capital did, unveiling a completely rebranded, re-imagined event at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., on Monday night called, appropriately enough, THE EVENT, that was heavy on networking and socializing and fun and light on pretty much everything else. I was there, as Convene‘s guy on the ground in D.C., and here are three basic takeaways for any meeting professional interested in pulling off a killer event, even if that event isn’t all-capped:
1. Give attendees what they want. Capital members regularly told chapter leaders that what they most value is networking, President Kirsten Olean, CMP, CAE, told EVENT attendees, during one of the few times there was a break in the action. So Capital scrapped the two-hour, sit-down program that previously dominated its annual meeting, and made THE EVENT all about people connecting and reconnecting, with a few brief interludes to present awards and thank sponsors. As President-Elect Annette Suriani, CMP, said about 90 seconds after being introduced to the crowd: “I want everyone to just get back to the party.”
2. Have a signature cocktail. Maybe it’s me, but I’m always happy to see a specialty drink being passed around. At THE EVENT, there was the Norfolk Tide, in honor of sponsor Visit Norfolk — a smooth, ice-blue concoction with vodka, blue curaçao, and lime juice (and possibly also known as a Blue Kamikaze). It’s a small thing, but a signature cocktail helps create a sense of occasion, and it gives you something you can use to accent and reinforce your conference theme, your organizational mission, your partners, or even just your decor. And, assuming you opt for something primary-colored, like Capital did, your drink is a fun focal point — something everyone’s eyes are drawn to as waitstaff circulate with trays of it.
3. Choose a unique venue. When you get down to it, a destination is a collection of things you won’t find anywhere else, and that includes places to come together. Arena Stage is perfectly D.C. — a gorgeous, glassed-in venue that sits along the capital’s Southwest waterfront. THE EVENT spilled throughout Arena’s Grand Lobby (shown here in a press photo), a sweeping flight of stairs above the building’s main entrance, in a dramatic space with poured-concrete walls and pillars, wood-accented ceilings, and three-story windows — which provided views not of the city’s well-known downtown or National Mall, but of someplace else with just as much to offer. Only in D.C., and, on Monday night, only for the meeting professionals of the PCMA Capital Chapter.