A PCO (Professional Congress Organizer) is an organization 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 organizes all those activities itself providing it has the in-depth knowledge of the destination. In short, PCO brings together many different elements and suppliers involved in creating a successful meeting and actively oversees the whole process.
The future of PCO – which has already begun – is the capability to change and adapt to novelties in order to survive. Moreover, every item has been changing – from clients and suppliers to the technology and environment. Therefore, lifelong learning and embracing imminences is a must.
Needless to say, client always wants 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 PCO to secure the business. Not only will client negotiate savings wherever possible but will also try to improve its ROI. Value for money will not be a mere 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 all the time.
The suppliers will have shorter deadlines, especially in favorable seasons like June and September when they are traditionally very well booked. Majority of suppliers combine different pieces of business and very often PCO has to dance on a very thin wire whether to 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 organizers 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.
Talking about ecology it becomes greater issue every day. Each part of a complicated meeting industry chain needs to comply with these trends if they wish to stay in business, which has even created a term “green meetings”! PCO wanting to play the game might join various platforms (like Travelife) to enhance its ethical performances.
Business environment is not getting any better or easier for a PCO either. Legislature, at least in Croatia, does not recognize a PCO and its true values and needs, but treats meeting industry as one small portion of “special tourism forms” compelling PCO to act as a travel agency. EU legislature did not help at all, furthermore, made it even worse with their directive of “special VAT margin scheme for travel agents” making a life of PCO more stressful, if it is possible at all.
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 the industry certification programs and be prepared to always learn, learn, and learn.
What would be 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.