Paul Colston at PCMA: On message

Paul Colston on Austin, the American welcome and the problems of too much choice.

I wrote here once before about the delay and difficulties experienced in entering the US through Miami, having queued twice for two hours when I felt a distinct absence of the famed US service culture from the border control officers. Therefore, it is only fair to give praise where it’s due and say how efficient the staff at Austin’s Bergstrom International Airport have been this week, clearly on their mettle in dealing with a big influx of business travellers attending the PCMA’s Convening Leaders conference at the city’s main convention centre this week.

The whole entry process was polite, efficient and well organised and, once through passport control and customs, there was a mini PCMA welcome village, with registration right outside baggage claim and even a cocktail to get delegates right into the spirit.

Great to see so many European faces, too, joining this 4,000-delegate event, as the PCMA ramps up its profile in Europe, with a new director set to be permanently stationed on the continent later this year.

A shuttle service from Austin’s Bergstom Airport that even Ray Bloom’s IMEX team would be proud of (including a food parcel in case we died of thirst and hunger on the way to the hotel:) took it on from there and, before I knew it, this Convening Leaders first-timer felt right at home with the association and its welcoming team.

Good to have the American service stereotype back where it belongs, even if the Texas weather is not reverting to type just yet.

Only the hardy Brits were on view outside the airport terminal waiting for the shuttle in 5oC temperature. Pleasantly bracing was how I looked upon it in my jumper and jacket, and a nice refresher after a nine-and-a-half hour flight; although you would have thought my American host was dressed more for a trip husky-sledding in the Siberian taiga. A question of what you’re used to, I guess.

I’m certainly not used to taking a multiple choice examination every time I order food, which is effectively what happens in Texas. So many options, and that is admirable, but sometimes less is more for the sake of speed and efficiency.

I’m old enough to remember when coffee was just, well, ‘coffee’ and bread was ‘bread’. Now a little sourdough with my mocchiato, on option 27 of the permutations, sure tastes better than the Maxwell House and Mother’s Pride, but it sure takes a while to arrive at the result y’all.

And the English speaking world does seem to be getter smaller; our Scottish BA flight captain announced the closing of ‘the rest rooms’ rather than the perhaps more blunt and British idiom ‘toilet’. Next year, I wonder if we will be getting our BA announcements Valley-girl style, like? With time on my hands long haul, I suppose I could, like, welcome a US-style menu choice on BA like.

Anyone for Stornaway black pudding on rye, with a bergamot tea? Bring it on.

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.


Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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