BREDA PEČOVNIK, Congress and Events Management Director of CD Congress Centre Ljubljana

THE FUTURE OF PCO

I hope that by now the role of PCOs is clear enough to both clients and suppliers. And I also hope that PCOs (even in Slovenia) have received the deserved praise for a job well done – successfully implemented events and meetings. I must say that amount of work has not diminished since technology has been seeping into every pore of our business – the energy that was once channelled into manual operations is now focused on a creative approach to our clients and communication with the audience.

It is very hard to forecast the future of PCOs. Will they exist? Of course they will – I’m sure of that. And I’m also sure that the globalisation process, in terms of transforming the organisation of meetings into business, will come to a certain point of arrested development. The big players servicing, or, better said, managing the international associations and making money on and for them, have made our business less personal, less dedicated to detail and less human in character.

I always think that a certain authority – a scientist who has contributed to the world’s development, for example – deserves the best and has a right to choose the destination and the team working on his behalf when organising a meeting. [pullquote]So I would say that small PCOs will be back on the scene, because they can provide exactly that – a person and a face behind the machine, investing all of the knowledge and effort into the implementation.[/pullquote]

Another increasingly important role of the PCO will be finding the money for events and their associations. The number of memberships all over the world is slowly decreasing, not only due to financial crisis, but because there are new associations emerging every day. Our tastes and interests are closely focused more than ever and we select more carefully whom we are going to dedicate our time to.

THE PERFECT PCO

[pullquote]Never tired and without energy, always smiling, well prepared, well organised and capable of finding the best way for the client. [/pullquote]The perfect PCO should offer the complete organisation of a congress or an event from the original idea to the final realisation with attention to every detail or providing only separate services.

The perfect PCO has to think instead of the client, giving thought to everything required for an efficient implementation and the well-being of the delegates. The PCO has to find the best providers and optimal solutions and be able to comply with all the wishes, ideas and needs of a client and realise them in their entirety.

A PCO has to have invaluable experience gained throughout its long-standing and varied activity, experience complemented by extensive expertise in combination with training and knowledge that is continually expanded and enhanced.

A PCO has to form global professional connections, has to be completely reliable, have the most advanced technology, state-of-the-art computer information system; a PCO has to search for new ideas and establish a committed professional relationship with a client or partner. What’s most important about each of the projects a PCO tackles is the goal or the satisfaction of the client and participants.

The references that a PCO acquires throughout its long-established tradition, the references gained through its quality services, are of monumental importance not only for the national but also international market. A PCO’s advantages are a highly competent and experienced team and know-how. All other factors and circumstances have to comply with the expectations and preferences of the organisers.

A top professional organiser, extremely active and willing to establish an open communication, will devise an excellent (outstanding!) programme. Prompt information, effective communication and readiness to cooperate are key characteristics of a perfect PCO.

Other vital elements of a perfect PCO are ensuring that European PCOs follow market trends and developments to cope with global competition and that Europe remains the world’s ultimate meetings destination, thereby strengthening the profile of your national association in Europe and worldwide.

About the Author

Breda Pečovnik has been Congress and Events Management Director of CD Congress Centre Ljubljana since 2006. She is currently a member of the Slovenian Convention Bureau’s Board as well as ICCA, IAPCO and other professional international associations. She teaches congress management at a college and faculty in Ljubljana.

WHAT IS AN IAPCO PCO?

An IAPCO PCO is a Professional Congress Organiser or Meeting Planner who administers and brings to fruition the organisation of a congress, meeting, event or convention in a professional manner. Such a professional manner will include timeliness, efficiency, financial responsibility and good management.

An IAPCO PCO has achieved a professional standard as judged by their peers and their clients. Each member has had to undergo rigorous entry criteria:

WHAT IS AN IAPCO PCO?

— Proof of organisation of 10 international meetings, of which 5 must be of over 400 participants

— Confidential references received from past clients

— Site inspection of a selected international congress

— Successful interviews by peer review of international client, local organising committee, delegates and exhibitors of a selected international congress

— Inspection of offices and audit of procedures

— Once accepted into the Association, an IAPCO PCO has to maintain their membership by participating in an annual quality assessment including:

— Statutory returns to prove on-going trading and notification of management changes

— Submission of Congress Check Lists to ensure continuous activity in the international meetings market

— Quality Self Assessment to position oneself against one’s competition and peers and to provide a benchmark for improvement

— Attendance at the annual Quality Seminar at least once every three years

As a result of the above, an IAPCO PCO offers a unique quality assurance recognised by congress clients and suppliers all over the world.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN IAPCO PCO AND A NON-MEMBER PCO?

A non-member PCO may differ from an IAPCO PCO in one or more of the following ways:
– Core business is not professional congress organisation
– Level of expertise is not ensured through continuous quality control and assurance procedures
– Not under review by a Committee of Ethics in case of a dispute
– Not stimulated to take part in annual educational programmes
– Not part of an international forum exchanging ideas and expertise.
– This does not mean that non-member PCOs are unqualified to do the job to the highest level; it means that, when engaging or employing a PCO, careful attention should be paid to the level of expertise and quality assurance to ensure that the right PCO is selected.

IAPCO is a worldwide sign of quality and the solution to congress organising is to appoint an IAPCO member.

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