What is a PCO? Do you really know? This was a hot topic at the recent IMEX America seminar run by IAPCO. Managing the six conference success factors highlighted the strategic extension of services often provided by the PCO: the political considerations; the outreach; the scientific content; the long-term legacy; the emotional after effect and ultimately the financial outcome. “And with the financial outcome, I mean bottom line outcome” said Mathias Posch, President ICS Vancouver, and IAPCO International Relations Officer, presenting on the topic, “not the cheapest through the door. You need to look increased delegate attendance, greater sponsorship outreach, additional inclusive services …. The Value Add On”.
Following this outline presentation, extensive but surprisingly non-controversial discussion evolved from the 30 or so attendees, from all sectors of the meetings industry.
The most immediate question was why were there no PCOs from the USA in IAPCO? “Because the terminology is different …. Is a Meeting Planner in the US the same as a PCO elsewhere….. few in the US comprehend what a PCO is” responded Mathias.
“It is a difference in dialogue” said Brian Riggs of Association Headquarters “But today’s marketplace is truly global and individual meeting planners in the States and around the world will miss out because we as a community are not using a language that is international. The disconnect will become more and more apparent as the world becomes more global … and remember” he continued” every young person is already globally connected … it is in their DNA”.
“The lines are becoming more blurred” commented Barbara Maple, consultant to the industry. “Originally a Meeting Planner was asked to provide very specific tasks, but now they are asked to do more and more, and to further embrace the strategic planning concept.” “Yes but historically” said Susan Daugulis of Venue West “Meeting Planners outsourced many of the services having few permanent staff, whereas PCOs generally have all the services in-house”.
IAPCO is the only association certifying PCOs and it was deemed important that Meeting Planners and PCOs, regardless of their title, should strive to achieve this accreditation, and to be recognised internationally in order to benefit from the onset of globalisation. “IAPCO is to be congratulated for having set the standards” commented Harry Fine, who represents many DMCs worldwide “I wish all associations in our industry had such standards and criteria. IAPCO may not have all the answers but they have certainly set the standard for the industry”.
As a result of IMEX America, IAPCO anticipates at least half a dozen applications from Meeting Planners in the US, who are looking to breach the international language barrier, and embrace the global market, by becoming PCOs as well as retaining their US Meeting Planning title.