The Professional Convention Management Association kicked off its annual Convening Leaders meeting on Sunday night in its hometown of Chicago. “We are optimistic that we will once again best the previous year’s attendance,” said PCMA president and CEO Deborah Sexton. While official attendance numbers won’t be known for another 10 days, Sexton noted they were trending slightly ahead of last year’s numbers; in Boston last year, the organization welcomed 4,072 attendees. The meeting’s virtual attendance is also poised to be a record high; as of noon on Monday, there were more than 700 people attending online. It’s fair to expect more than 1,000 by the show’s end, said show executives. Sexton was quick to point out, however, that the organization is more interested in the quality of the show program and attendees than it is in sheer numbers. Key features of this year’s meeting include the return of the Learning Lounge, a central open area for sessions, tech demos and short presentations of varying lengths. Today [wednesday], the meeting’s final day, PCMA will debut a new program, “Five Speakers to Watch,” during which five people will each get 15 minutes to present. The organization worked with a number of speakers bureaus to find lesser-known, affordable presenters to introduce to attendees.