A Retrospective on PMI® Global Summit

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October 2023

Elevating Project Managers and the Profession Through Inclusive Knowledge Sharing

One of the chief advantages of community is the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences with others. This desire to share and learn from one another is what motivated a small group of professionals from different fields — including pharmaceuticals, aerospace and civil engineering — to exchange information about the common challenges they were experiencing with planning and scheduling in an increasingly project-oriented world.

In 1969, the same year that NASA’s Apollo program culminated with the first humans landing on the moon, the founders of what would become Project Management Institute (PMI)® convened a meeting of 80 attendees from the United States and Canada for a seminar on “Advanced Project Management Concepts,” hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Over 50 years later, PMI® Global Summit continues to be the premier event for bringing together the project management community. 

Bringing Together a Diverse Project Community

PMI has become a global community during that half-century, serving more than 1.5 million active certification holders, including almost 690,000 PMI members in 217 countries and territories across over 25 industries around the world. PMI recognized the business impact of emerging markets and globalization early on, organizing events in locales from Dubai to Dublin and London to Istanbul.

To help project practitioners thrive in this global business environment, panels at these events have discussed the importance of understanding regional differences, the broader geopolitical situation and how to build bridges for cross-cultural collaboration. For example, at the PMI® Global Congress 2013—EMEA in Istanbul, Turkey, Nader Mousavizadeh, global thinker and former advisor to then-Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, spoke about the need to adapt to a business landscape no longer dominated by free-market capitalism where countries such as China, Nigeria and Turkey are redefining power on their own terms. To adapt to a more diverse project environment, Avinash Chandarana, global learning and development director at MCI Group, said attendees must “get over cultural perceptions if we’re to do business on the global stage. Only those countries, organizations and people that bridge cultures and geographies will succeed.”

To enable even more voices to join the conversation, PMI launched a successful virtual event pilot later that same year. At PMI® Global Congress 2013—North America in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, more than 300 volunteers around the world streamed and participated in five live congress sessions happening in real time via secure access. The volunteers were able to download documents and exhibitor materials and reported high satisfaction with the experience. The positive response paved the way for PMI to integrate digital offerings and expand participation and, more importantly, helped enable the rapid launch of the PMI Virtual Event Series that would engage and support the project management community at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic several years later.

Preparing Project Professionals to Be Strategic Partners and Lead Change

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A top reason project professionals attend PMI® Global Summit is to hear the slate of speakers who inspire them to anticipate, influence and elevate in their role as strategic partners within organizations and as a key force for change in the world. Participants have enjoyed impactful keynote speeches and panel discussions by influential and well-known leaders like Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web; Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai; José Andrés, chef and humanitarian (World Central Kitchen); and sports legends Earvin “Magic" Johnson and Nadia Comaneci.

(Note: PMI Global Summit has had different names over the years, including Global Congress and Global Conference; in 2020, PMI introduced the Virtual Events Series to substitute for in-person events during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

But attendees also get down to business with industry leaders and fellow members of the project management community to discuss topics like leadership, change management, strategy and innovation, and to share and motivate one another to answer questions such as:

  • How can project managers help their organizations today prepare for an uncharted tomorrow?
  • How can project managers best leverage their knowledge and power to make the right decisions on behalf of their organizations?
  • How can project managers blaze the trail and enable others to do the same?

As a shining example of the critical role project managers play in driving change in the world, PMI unveiled its list of the 50 most influential projects of the past 50 years at PMI® Global Conference 2019—North America in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, as part of a celebration of the association’s 50th anniversary. Recognizing the impact of projectization on the world economy, Bob Safian, former editor of Fast Company, said, “The old rules of business don’t apply anymore. We must all possess a willingness and ability to adapt to the constant changes coming our way.” In the words of Tech Mahindra’s Vikram Nair, “People will work on a project or task, deliver value and move on.” 

Creating a Forum for Project Professionals to Acquire the Latest Knowledge

As ways of working have evolved, PMI® Global Summit has served as a forum to help the community upskill and keep pace with the latest tools, technologies and approaches. The importance of ongoing learning, knowledge transfer and human connections is central to the successful practice of project management, and attendance at PMI® Global Summit has helped project practitioners stay ahead of the curve. Over the past decade of massive cultural and business shifts, PMI has led the way forward with early skill-building sessions on:

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“Three days at congress replaces two to three weeks of work back in the office,” said Juergen Flemming, PMP, head of project management, Vinzenz von Paul Kliniken GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany. “The presentations, keynotes and ideas being shared are so inspiring. It ultimately helps me work better and faster.”

Here's a deeper look at major themes and features of PMI® Global Summit over the last 10 years.

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Focusing on the Future: PMI® Global Summit 2023

Today, PMI® Global Summit continues this long tradition of bringing the community together to learn and lead change. The 2023 event, expected to be the biggest gathering to date, will prominently feature AI and its impact on project management. As project practitioners adopt new ways of working and leverage emerging technologies to build an evolving future, it is fitting that PMI will come full circle and return to Atlanta to celebrate the exchange of ideas. It is a return to the knowledge-sharing goals of those first seminar attendees back in 1969. How will current and future project managers — including prospective young professionals now studying at Georgia Tech and other institutions of higher learning — join with the global project management community to envision and create a more positive world?

Join us at PMI® Global Summit in Atlanta, on 25–28 October, and be part of this vibrant, global community.