THE FUTURE OF PCO
A PCO (Professional Congress Organiser) is an organisation whose core business is providing consultancy and management services to meeting planners. They provide expert knowledge, experience and operational resources to plan and deliver successful events of different sizes, locations and subject matter. Sometimes a PCO may engage a DMC (Destination Management Company) for services in a destination like excursions, dinners etc. or an EMC (Event Management Company) for themed events. Very often, a PCO organises all those activities itself, providing it has the in-depth knowledge of the destination. In short, a PCO brings together many different elements and suppliers involved in creating a successful meeting and actively oversees the whole process.
[pullquote]The future of the PCO – which has already begun – is the capability to change and adapt to novelties in order to survive.[/pullquote] Moreover, every item has been changing – from clients and suppliers to the technology and environment. Therefore, lifelong learning and embracing change is a must.
Needless to say, clients always want more while spending less by cutting the costs. The leads will be even shorter and the speed and quality of its proposal will be crucial for a PCO to secure the business. Not only will clients negotiate savings wherever possible, but they will also try to improve their ROI. Value for money will not be merely a phrase, but a significant fact supported by hard figures. In addition, content, being crucial to the client, determines the way in which it is presented; and here new ideas spring up all the time.
The suppliers will have shorter deadlines, especially in favourable seasons like June and September, when they are traditionally very well booked. The majority of suppliers combine different pieces of business and very often a PCO has to dance on a very thin wire whether they can guarantee the services and number of participants and take the risk of either performing superbly or poorly.
Is there anything new to say about technology besides the fact it evolves and changes on a daily basis? Social networks are omnipresent and meeting organisers use platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to communicate information. They are also using smartphone apps, Twitter, Instagram to interact with participants before, during and after the event.
The talking about ecology becomes a greater issue every day and each part of a complicated meetings industry chain needs to comply with these trends if they wish to stay in business, which has even created its own term of “green meetings”! PCOs wanting to play the game might join various platforms (like Travelife) to enhance their ethical performances.
The business environment is not getting any better or easier for a PCO either. Legislature, at least in Croatia, does not recognise a PCO and its true values and needs, but treats the meetings industry as one small portion of “special tourism forms”, compelling a PCO to act as a travel agency. Furthermore, EU legislature did not help at all, but made it even worse with their directive of “special VAT margin scheme for travel agents”, making the life of a PCO more stressful, if that is at all possible.
Lifelong learning and exchanging industry knowledge and experience will be the key. Meeting planners will continue to focus on linking their meetings and events to destinations and venues that live and breathe their industries, expertise areas and business strategies. Professionals like PCOs must embrace industry networking, refreshing old and adopting new skills and knowledge, partake in the industry certification programmes and be prepared to always learn, learn, and learn.
THE PERFECT PCO
The perfect PCO would be one that provides a peace of mind to a meeting planner delivering meeting consultancy and utmost management services while improving a client’s ROI. In addition, the perfect PCO enjoys excellent relationships with all its suppliers, vendors and partners advocating sustainable tourism by respecting the law, supporting universal human rights, minimizing environmental impact and maximizing cultural interaction and ensuring economic benefits to the community.
About the Author
Ranko Filipović has over 25 years in the meetings industry as a PCO and DMC. After spending 20 years in a large company, together with his colleagues in 2010 he created PerfectMeetings.hr – a small company focused on meetings, incentives and events. Their other brand is Meeting Industry Consultants, providing a wide range of consulting services in the meetings and events sector. In addition, he serves on a pro bono basis as Vice-President of the Croatian Meeting Professionals Association, a non-profit organisation connecting meeting professionals in Croatia with worldwide knowledge and expertise.
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.