Hospitality Industry Discussion with PCMA

EPISODE 28|Hospitality Industry Discussion with PCMA

Brooke and Cody are joined today by Sherrif Karamat, President and CEO of PCMA, to talk about the benefits of embracing digital and how he's seeing an increased collaboration in the hospitality industry. 

We discuss everything from the relationship between the planner and supplier, to PCMA's approach to helping through COVID situations. Sheriff also shares the emerging trends he believes we will see in the next 6 - 12 months. Check out how you can get involved with PCMA and their supportive community at www.pcma.org.

As a special bonus, listen in to hear more about Cvent Connect Virtual! From August 25 - 26, we will provide 28 live breakout sessions, virtual meetups and appointments. Check out CventConnect.com/virtual to register for free today!

Guest

  • Sherrif Karamat, President and CEO, PCMA

Hosts

  • Brooke Gracey, Senior Manager, Demand Generation, Cvent
  • Cody Liskn, Team Lead, Event Quarterback Team, Cvent

Related resources

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Transcript

Cody Liskh
Sherrif Thank you so much for joining.

Sherrif Karamat
Brooke and Cody. Thank you very much, delighted to be here.

Cody Liskh
Of course, we'll go ahead and dive right in. Can you give us a little bit of background on how you ended up at PCMA and your journey to becoming the CEO?

Sherrif Karamat
You know it is a long story, but I'll tell you, I never thought I would be in the business event space or the meetings industry. I always wanted to be in Marketing and be a CMO for baseball franchise or sports franchise, but obviously didn't work out the way I had planned and one thing led to another, but the owner of I sort of the soccer team and the owner of that soccer team actually owned nine hotels And that led me into the hotel business that led me to the CVV business unlike the current situation we're in COVID19 It's interesting that you asked me that question because back in 2003 there was something called SARS, and a different type of coronavirus and that virus led Me to PCMA actually to work for PCMA because the CEO then CEO of PCMA came to my city and offered to help, help me with SARS and following SARS He offered me a role at a PCMA so that started the journey at PCMA I was vice president of sales and sponsorship that then led to me, becoming the COO of PCMA and during the course of Being a COO, I was very instrumental in in crafting a new strategic plan and a new global vision for organization and after at that time. Our then CEO decided to leave and I was, I was selected as the candidate to run the organization and I was pleased too because it was building on the strategy and the vision that we had to go. So, it was just a natural fit for me anyway.

Brooke Gracey
That's such an interesting journey. I feel like every time we talked to people in the planning or the meeting space. They all have kind of a crazy way of How they got there. I love that it came from sports and we are obviously familiar with PCMA, a lot of our listeners are as well. We've been hearing about the digital experience Institute For a while now. Tell us a little bit about PCMA is digital experience Institute, but also curious about how its mission does change, especially over the past eight or so weeks.

Sherrif Karamat
Yeah, you know, you're asking such interesting questions and timing Makes it quite interesting. I'll tell you, first and foremost, we always felt that digital extensions of events were critically important. And I'll talk to you a bit about that in a moment. But the first thing is 10 years ago we on PCMA bought a company called the virtual edge institute that we ultimately changed its name to the digital experience Institute. The eye and 10 years ago our annual event convening leaders was in Las Vegas. And when we were in Las Vegas. The following year, we were going to San Diego and Las Vegas was the first year we did a live stream and digital event when we went to San Diego our attendance grew by 10% And our costs were much higher. But our attendance to grow by 10% and 90% of the growth in attendance They told us that our attendance grew because they saw us on a digital platform.
And that was really interesting. So, it really made PCMA start investing in digital events. So, I want to give you an analogy, Brooke And Just because before I answer the second part of your question, I want to give you an analogy and then go back to sports. And let's think of baseball and I'll use Chicago, so forgive me, because you're from Oregon, but I'm going to Chicago Cubs and imagine that the stadium is 60,000 or 80,000 right and imagine that's all you could hold. Right, then you would only have a base of 80,000 to work with. So, think of a convention center a hotel that can hold 25,000 10,000 or 500. If that's all they could do if the event organizer. That's all they could do it would be very limiting. But now, think of the same baseball stadium or the same convention center with 80,000 fans, but then you stream into 80 million and you and you broadcast it to 80 million. Well, what is different about that is that there are people who organize the physical game the players the umpires the fans that come to the game and so forth. But if you want to take that to a different audience and online audience A viewing audience, you have to be very, very different. You've got to have announcers’ broadcasters instant replay color commentator production camera crews and so forth, a very, very different skill set.
Well, you need to think about all those things. And this thing. It's not about just taking the physical came and put it online if you didn't have All those enhancements, the game would be very different chance or might not be exciting to watch so PCMA over the past two months have gone through that very much the same way. Teaching people how to do effective online events and visual events and everything from podcasts to online events.
It's a skill. It's using different techniques and it's also making trying to make that as engaging as possible and to way multiple ways as possible so PCMA is a fast track many of its programs over the past two months. Instead of these long courses will really fast track them use a lot more video lot more interactivity induced AI and AR into the Into our programs to allow for better engagement better interaction, more, more hands-on time so that people can engage in the material and actually upscale as quickly as possible.
The result has been very, very surprisingly good in the sense that we are seeing people from around the world getting involved and even organization-wide. They're getting involved in the course material so that they can I hate the dreaded P word these days, but they can pivot their organizations as quickly as possible.

Brooke Gracey
Yes, we've been using the P-word quite a bit recently happened.

Sherrif Karamat
I'm trying to create a different word from pivot word

Cody Liskh
I love that analogy. You just gave about you know the baseball game. I mean that's something that everybody can relate to. You go to a baseball game and it's one experience, but the reach that you get is really limited and by broadcasting it and thinking about it kind of from an event production standpoint That's when you get a different experience. But it's also, you know, this cool baseball game that we're all here to see in the first place. I just love that analogy.
I was hoping you could talk to us a little bit more about how the pandemic has accelerator industries moved to a duel offering with the digital and in-person event production.

Sherrif Karamat
You know you let me answer that in a couple of ways. One is that certainly what I found a pandemic has done. It's made us more open to failures. Made us more open to changes and more accepting of people trying different things. So, they have been more Liberty in allowing organizations and individuals to take chances and risks to try something new to engage audiences. So, it certainly is about that and you Think of this today, you're running at 100 miles per hour, and suddenly you're no longer able to run, but you still need to go somewhere. Or you know you have to go from point A to point B, but you can no longer do it in the traditional means Our traditional means was very much face to face, and that was completely cut off, not by anyone's choice. But what it did was forced you to look at other mediums and look at ways other ways of engaging we as human beings we like a community. We like engagement. We like belonging and we like social interactions. And so, subsequently, we had to quickly. We had to quickly do that I would say this That's been sort of a catalyst, or if it was a point in time that allows us to do that quicker. However, I do believe that if you think of people's pain points, the consumer pain points and the customer pain points Those things should be digitized should have already been digitized and the reality is that we've taken way too long. And actually what we could have done is grown our audience even considerably bigger and face to face, much bigger Because when you take things in a digital format, you're exposing your products, your services, and your industries to such greater audiences Then you would have ever imagined. So, I just think as dire as these times are with sort of the human healthcare toll that's had on the entire world. I think there's opportunities that have come to sort of say for companies for individuals to open up in an era when we when we've got many of the tools now to access digital platforms.

Brooke Gracey
I like what you said there about we should probably have been doing this anyway, right. So, this is kind of just getting us they're probably a little bit quicker and it's true. You know, we're trying different things. We're all getting really creative, but there is this capacity for failure or maybe it's not as exactly smooth as we would want it to be. But we all know we're just trying to try some of these new things and so

Sherrif Karamat
Let me, let me jump in here and say this, you know, there is There's something actually very raw and real about this environment that if it's too scripted to choreograph, it is not viewed as authentic. And this is also allowing for that sort of experimentation. People want to see the realness in us because that's what endeared face to face with all of us. And so there is just You know, seeing someone from in their home environments in real environments Understanding that you know when we're all buttoned up and we're all nicely dressed up, you know, we've got different sites or personalities and you're seeing this sort of broader perspective that's allowing for a much more I think getting to know each other and engaging experiences. I think all of that is contributing to this kind of environment that we're living in with the broader acceptance of these different technologies.

Brooke Gracey
You really hit home with that Sheriff because I mean even thinking about the podcast, never in a million years where Cody and I going to get on camera. Even when we are in our office and we were dressed for work, but there is this new way of reaching our audiences. Now in video is becoming very popular when we're all stuck at home. And so now we have opened it up and it's like I'm in my home office right now I get it. So, it is this kind of like we've always needed to do it. And it is really real. And unscripted, and I think people appreciate that. So,

Cody Liskh
And it's working to I feel like we are doing like we're getting the point across. We're doing our podcast and you know my cat is jumping up behind me and that's giving a You know, an air of realism, I love that point too. I did want to shift, though, SHERIFF AND ASK YOU ABOUT OUR hospitality side of the industry. One of the things that you do offer as a global perspective of the meetings and hospitality industry. So how is the relationship between the planner and supplier change from a global viewpoint?

Sherrif Karamat
Well, I think that going back to the last question about this idea of us. There is a, an, there's a more openness to work things out right now. I would say one thing If I could think of what has happened to all of us is every side of this business, whether you use an event organizer or supplier side from, say, the hospitality industry. Everyone is impacted by this business by COVID and it's been a profound impact. And so, it's not just one side of the business that's hurting. So, what I am seeing is greater, greater, greater collaboration amongst the different entities to come up with Solutions to everyone being hurt at the same time. So, I'm seeing greater collaboration and also seeing those different cities around the world are a different stage of the virus and certain cities are starting to come out of it. So, seeing that how you work with each other so on right now let's look at We've got hotels airlines, we've got airports, we've got convention centers. We've got all sorts of different chains of the supply chain and that are impacted in certain areas international flights are completely stopped right. People were booked flights on those international flights for the future.
I am seeing greater cooperation between those who booked the flight and the airlines, I'm seeing the same, but the hotels and event organizers. I'm seeing the same with convention centers and abilities so that that is happening. That’s one.
Two is that I have Like we use the metaphor or the comparison for sports. I think our hotels or convention centers Should not be afraid of digitization. The minute that they're afraid of digitization, they will lose because they're trying to control the end consumer. What is this is you, if you would make a comparison between blockbuster and Netflix would be something to think about.
But if you look at hotels that I am used that comparison or convention centers or airlines Helping organizers to facilitate digital extensions of their events and digital experiences, along with the face of it, it will actually grow face to face Which will bring back the business faster, which was which is counterintuitive, but I feel the more we embrace digital, the faster we will get back to face to face. So, I'm actually seeing increased collaboration here all around.

Brooke Gracey
That's really interesting. This is kind of the first time we've heard that we've been hearing it from the planning side of the lot, you know, thinking about those hybrid kinds of experiences. But I like this approach of the hotels and the spaces like convention centers themselves starting to have those conversations with the planners and collaborating on that.

Sherrif Karamat
Well, think about that Brooke the opportunity and to Cody's question which is going to add is Think about the fact that hotels and convention centers can actually increase their services towards the client To ensure that that you can actually broaden that audience, so it's even an additional offering that they could provide with the expertise that they may have. So I just think that if you think about digitization The one thing that he is doing is allowing for a tremendous amount more of Transparency or data intelligence which is providing better service for the end-user, if, if the suppliers can help in that format Everyone will win. I think the other thing that you're seeing and to go back to the original question Is you're seeing a level of operational transparency, now more than ever, and this is that's a phrase I took from Delta Airlines. This notion of operational transparency, because for you to gain comfort in things There has to be much more transparency on how we how you're addressing safety concerns and health concerns. So, I'm seeing the supply side being much more operationally transparent on what they're doing to put the client and the end-user at ease or being comfortable with the fact that I don't want to feel safe. I want to know that I will be safe.

Brooke Gracey
That is the question on everybody's mind when we start going back to these venues. How do we stay safe and those are really where the conversations are going? I'm sure you're hearing that a lot from your PCMA members and leaders as well. And I know you guys are doing a lot for your members at this time. Can you tell us a little bit about PCMA may his approach to helping their members through these, you know, COVID situations?

Sherrif Karamat
The first thing when we started out with this and when this happened, you know, we had the best first quarter in our history. And then, then this happened. So, it was really, really ironic.
The first thing we started was the PCMA said at the very beginning of COVID back in February. Actually, we said that we will be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. And it was important for us because I think that if we were part of the solution. The faster we will get out of at least the health care issue and that was to ensure that our healthcare workers. Our first responders and our frontline employees are safe and healthy so they can take care of the rest of us. And if we do that, and we're disciplined about that we should be able to get this faster than it was the economic crisis and the psychological impact and everyone. So, all these things are happening simultaneously. And we've got to deal with all of them.
We started though with the healthcare Situation and what we did was webinars with Doctors from infectious disease and from the CDC and the Mayo Clinic really bringing the candid conversation about safety and about getting together. That was the first thing we started doing. And then we and from there we started looking at other things, and that is that how can we help with business sustainability and how can we help our members and customers Continue with business with their business and at the same time, knowing that they had to make some very tough decisions on employment and their teams and so forth.
And then the third part of that we actually did a whole series of surveys gathering intelligence and then taking it back out to them. We also have done six think tanks. And to talk about Live experiences of them post covert world talk about business continuity and new business models. And also, to speak of digital extensions and digital events and how you may be able to engage your audience's during this time. So, we've been doing all of those things. In addition, we have hired a company To do scenario planning that our foundation has funded that research and that research will come out very early June On scenario planning, depending on the scenario what our members and customers might be doing so we all of these are series of things that we are doing.
And, first and foremost, we say that We've got to ensure that our end users are confident again in their safety in their health And I'm going to give them the ability to be able to feel confident that they can attend events and so It's a series of things that we're doing, of course, training them in digital events is one of those

Cody Liskh
I think that the moment we can finally get everybody comfortable with finally getting back into live events is going to be the key to really seeing this whole thing Turn around.
You mentioned that you were involved with some surveys and the think tank. What trends, did you see I know you said it's going to come out in June, but you know what emerging trends do you see in the next six or 12 months.

Sherrif Karamat
 I'm a couple of things. And this is a really interesting question Cody, there is I see about three to five stages of this us emerging from COVID. The first is that the first trend I see is that it is expediting watched has already been digitized. So that's the first thing. So, things that should have been digitized will be digitized is no reason to lament about what has been digitized, actually, that will be the benefit.
the second trend is that face to face events, the experiences will truly have to be meaningful. In order for people to engage in them because there they are questioning
The third is that I believe the world is becoming leaders’ organizations are becoming more trusting of employees working in remote locations and that working remote locations Has this Potential of having a profound impact on commercial real estate. And so, whether that is news Still to come on what where that might end up but because of Working in remote locations and because we might be doing that more. So say 20 30% of our society moves to a remote location, I think, ironically, maybe, paradoxically, It might lead to a greater demand to face to face interactions. And so that is counter-intuitive but need to think about that.
Now, I talked about the steps. There will be steps, what we're seeing. And then a short term where we would want to meet, but not there's healthcare, there's a financial issue. And then there's also government restrictions and regulations that will come into play and how we get back into This environment. So, the first thing, let's just assume that we are coming to grips with the healthcare crisis. Okay, that's the first one that will, in the short term, it will have certain regulations as in terms of physical distancing and so for the second part until a vaccine is found.
The second part is that regardless of the fact of if there's the vaccine that's found or we're coming to grips with the healthcare crisis There is a financial crisis that we've all gone through and that is, do, do we have the resource financial resources to go on that trip. Is your company going to be prepared to send 10 people on that trip or instead of 10 they send two or one so that has an impact on how you will organize an event?
The third is the government regulations and an impact that it has on businesses wherein the short-term things might be more local, they might not be flights from say California to Barcelona. Our Los Angeles to Barcelona, there might just be flights in domestic US and Canada and domestic Europe and Great Britain and across Asia or just certain Asian countries. So you might see very localized regional events to start before things open up and it might open up like you see The situation in New Zealand and Australia where they're thinking of forming a dual country bubble for cross border activity, so there's a few complexities, things that are happening, and at the same time, there are things that you can see how you can then Organize your events, based on what is happening now, there is a part of your question that I don't think that we're answering as yet And that is how has your and my behavior change as consumers, because of what has what COVID has done. And that's, that's something is a bit more elusive to talk of a behavioral change and the impact that may have on a long-term impact on the business event space And I don't have that crystal ball. So, I wish I could tell you

Cody Liskh
I feel like there are some changes that are happening to us, but I don't know what they are yet. I just feel like will discover that When the dust settles maybe like a web to have a retrospective analysis as to what's happening right now.
Sherrif this has been such a cool conversation. And there's a lot of stuff that I've learned here. If you had to leave our event professionals with just one takeaway or piece of advice, what would that be

Sherrif Karamat
Well, I always say that, um, we react to things that are Drop. Drop that us. It's a shock. Right. But the most profound impact on human beings. Never happens in an instant of a moment. It actually takes a long time. And the reason being, I feel we humans as a species are not capable of handling profound change and we have to. It's gradually introduced to us. So, I firmly believe as shocking and as devastating a healthcare crisis that COVID 19 is It actually prepares us for a different future as a species as a human being. And so, I, I would say that what we have to do is we have to make sure we learn, and we do not go back to being the same who we are. If we, we, as dire and as devastating This has been in human lives if we did not take this opportunity to learn to grow and change or ways we would have squandered a gift as devastating as it has been to us to change our ways for a better brighter tomorrow.
So, I'm asking, not to react. But think about what is happening to us and respond carefully and think about what, what future lies, and how you will better be able to serve the people that you're trying to serve in your business or personal. I know that every one of us as consumers as individuals human being is being impacted by this crisis and every one of us are have had to adapt or ways Whether it's being at home working from home being with our families all the time. That is that is a very big shift. But if we've learned nothing from that experience, then I think we would have squandered a great opportunity.

Brooke Gracey
Yeah, a little silver lining. So, everything that's happening right now. And I just love the way that PCMA has really been a true partner for the events industry through all of this. Can you just give us quickly how our audience could become more involved with PCMA?

Sherrif Karamat
Thank you for asking. I feel like it's a shameless plug. But

Brooke Gracey
Not at all.

Sherrif Karamat
PCMA is family and I do believe that everyone in this business events industry. I, I say this, and I say this with such passion. Is that the business events industry drives economic and social transformation, we can define or future we can define a better future for the world or society or companies and for our children and grandchildren, that's up to us and I think that, and this is about community.
Getting involved with PCMA is as simple as going on our website at WWW.PCMA.org.There are various communities on so many different things. There are community conversations with our board members, they are webinars. They're all sorts of different chat groups to help us navigate this time, but I'm telling you, this is a short-term shock. And that, to me, the real beauty of getting together as a community around a common interest that we may have Is to shape a different tomorrow for all of us. I invite people PCMA is a member-based organization. And it's also people. Anyone can be a part of the PCMA, and you don't have to be a member Just, just get involved and if you've got ideas we are listening, we are prepared to listen to those ideas.
We will get through this, this is not, this is not an option. We will get through it. What to me would be a disaster for us is to not learn from it so that we can have a brighter tomorrow, we have to learn that things and I may be going on a bit too long on this explanation, but I will tell you this in 9/1. When 9/11 happened horrific criminal activity terrorist activity. What happened was, you and I did not want us to stop wanting to fly. We did not want to stop going from LA to New York. We wanted to travel but we wanted to know, we had, we could travel and safely and they were all sorts of different industries that started up from Trusted traveler programs to clear and nexus and all these different programs that came about. But also all sorts of different technologies and so forth to make us be safe when we’re traveling, we need to learn and grow from this and understand that Many new industries are going to be born from this that's happened to us and peace in their communities there and we want you to join and be a part of it.

Cody Liskh
That is such an awesome and inspiring message. I love that the whole theme of this is just, we need to look around and we need to take the lessons from this be a real shame if we went through this and didn't learn any lessons. So Sherrif Thank you so much for joining today's very special edition videocast.