In 1993, a small group of intrepid bay area meeting industry leaders set out to form the Northern California Chapter of what was then known as the Professional Convention Management Association. Led by Anthony Provine (Executive Director of California Society of Anesthesiologists) as the Chair of the Chapter Formation Committee and first Chapter President, Ann Hobolike, CMP ((Administrative director, American College of Physicians) the Chapter was formed and the journey began.
The Chapter’s first meeting was held on March 11, 1993 at the Sheraton Palace Hotel. Honored guests included Roy B. Evans, Jr., CAE Executive Vice President of PCMA and Sylvia Rottman, President of PCMA.
PCMA during that time was primarily a voice of the healthcare and medical related members of the industry, with an emphasis on medical associations. Then, as is still the case today, the bay area was not home to many associations, especially when compared with Chicago and Washington, DC. Challenges included bringing in planner members and building attendance.
Steve Van Dorn, committee member at the time noted “I remember how worried we were that we would be unable to first get approval of forming the Chapter then the next concern was getting people to attend. We had a very slow start but once we got the support from the national office and the word got out, the Chapter grew and flourished.” Gary Hernbroth, (President 1997-98) remembers those early days of the “Little Chapter that Could” when executive members would often be found calling friends and colleagues to encourage attendance. Additional efforts included cross meetings with other industry associations, including MPI and HCEA.
Christine Carchia (President – 2000) fondly remembers the early drive for volunteers, committee members new better than to leave the room or they would find themselves assigned or elected to a new role. When the association made the shift to Professional Conference Management Association, to be inclusive of all professionals including corporate, membership started to grow. Carchia especially notes how our Chapter and the association elevates our industry with education, showcasing the business aspect of our industry. “By not focusing on the fun and social element, I always came back to my desk inspired and proud in knowing that our work is important. We create a mini economy with our events. “
The Chapter made news with original ideas in bringing education and elevating the industry. Early achievements included the Career Day which was spearheaded by Sally Henderson (President – 1997) and Hernbroth. College hospitality students were invited to attend this day of learning from hospitality professionals. Set up by discipline – hotels, restaurants, DMCs, convention center, PSAV, meeting planner, housing/3rd parties — each had a large round table that students would rotate around to learn about their particular discipline to give them a broader view of the hospitality industry. Popular for several years, later programs included a “Toys for Tots” CSR element.
“Network for the Needy” was always a part of programming, with painting projects in 1997, numerous community volunteer activities and downtown park cleanup. 2003 saw a landscape improvement project at Hamilton Family Center.
Many of these early events led to bigger ideas and to what are now signature events for the Chapter. The Town Hall is one original program that continues to be a hit. Begun with Carchia and really taking hold with the terms of Rodney Martins (2001), Kenley Moy (2002) and Jennifer Witherington (2003). In 2003, one of the Chapter’s largest meetings to date was the Town Hall breakfast moderated by David Kliman at the St. Regis Hotel with PKF Hospitality Consulting presenting. Today, this continues to be a signature event for the Chapter again showcasing a commitment to the business of our industry.
The introduction of the LEAP Conference during Gary Murakami’s (President – 2014) term has become another signature event of the Chapter. Murakami recalls, “What started as a collaborative effort to host a joint education conference with the SWP Chapter and then brand it as LEAP has allowed us to continue the transition and movement of LEAP as its own NCC Chapter education day. LEAP along with the BAMIES serve as anchor events for the Chapter”.
In 2010, PCMANCC presented the first BAMIES, Bay Area Meetings Industry Excellence Awards program. Alex Carvalho-Lukachova (President – 2017) and her team cemented this event as the premier awards gala in our industry. Open to all in the industry and widely anticipated, this event is undoubtedly a signature Chapter event.
Over the years, there has always been a sense of community within the Chapter, with friendships as well as partnerships formed along the way. Pierre, the giant penguin, joined the Chapter at Convening Leaders 2013 in Orlando bringing many photo opportunities with him. The Chapter was one of the first to be visited by Deborah Sexton as the new Executive Director of PCMA in 2003. Fond memories are shared of long hours, numerous phone calls, endless napkin discussions, televisions for the Giants World Series broadcast and who to volunteer while out of the room.
In 25 years, the Chapter has grown from 42 members to 220, number 11 out of the 17 international Chapters. Current President, Zorianna Smith, sees the future in part by telling the story of passionate members and the impact involvement brings both professionally and personally. Today with a large, committed team of volunteers and community leaders, the Chapter is ready for the next quarter century, continuing to bring education and innovation to our industry.
Jennifer Lee Witherington, CMP, DMCP
National Director, Business Development
ACCESS Destination Services