With the ongoing expansion of the distributed workforce, this topic seems to be gaining even more importance among fellow project managers. The first part of the speech will cover the most interesting findings of a survey recently conducted by Wrike with 1,000 respondents (how many people work remotely, how this compares to their work style 2-3 years ago, what they value the most about telecommuting, where they see this trend going, etc.) For instance, the vast majority of surveyed people believe that a fully virtual office will be a reality in the future. Later, the presentation will focus on efficiency tips for managers of virtual teams, based on my own experience of working with globally dispersed employees.

If you haven’t planned a trip to Vancouver yet, it is worth consideration! I’m just as eager to hear the other presentations as I am to give my own. Speaking of the event agenda: this is one of the things that we recently discussed with Paula Jayne White, PMI’s Director, Professional Development. Read our full conversation to find out about the focus of the upcoming event and discover some lessons that such a huge project like PMI Congress can teach.

Paula Jayne, I’m pleased to welcome you in my blog! Could you please tell me a bit about your PMI history and your role in organizing the Congress in Vancouver?
Hello, Andrew. Thank you for having me. I joined PMI almost a year ago exactly, as the PMI Global Congress 2011—North America was getting underway in Dallas. It was a great initiation, since my role with PMI is to build on the Global Congress’s great history and help the event evolve in a way that reflects and meets the evolving needs of today’s project managers. The PMI Global Congress is the place where project management meets, and I’m fortunate to work with a talented team of individuals that share my passion and vision for everything from content to professional networking – everything that defines the participant experience and makes the PMI Global Congress such a valued professional development event.

One of the most exciting things about PMI Congresses is that they observe a really wide diversity of topics. Can you outline a few of the hottest ones on the upcoming agenda? What are the keynotes?
Some of the hottest topics this year are change management; requirements management; leadership and soft skills for project managers; agile; complexity in large projects; risk management; and the PMO, among others.

Our keynote speaker is Marcus Buckingham. We’re very excited to have him as part of our line-up; his insight into workplace strengths, how to maximize them and the crucial differences between leadership and management are unmatched. His presentation will give attendees a new perspective on how to fulfill the quest for long-lasting achievement, not just in the workplace but in all walks of life.

Other speakers include Annie McKee, best-selling author and founder of the Teleos Leadership Institute; behavioral scientist and consultant James Kane; Lem Lasher, President, Global Business Solutions, Chief Innovation Officer and Chairman of the Leading Edge Forum for technology solutions firm CSC; and Mary Beth Romig, one of the key architects of the reconstruction of New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

We’re excited to offer some new panels and topics for 2012 as well. Our first-ever Women in Project Management panel is poised for an exceptional turnout as it corrects the misconception that project management is a profession led only by men. Some of the most successful women in project management will share their experiences as project managers; discuss how project management as a profession is growing in general, and how opportunities for women specifically are increasing; and show how women are cracking the top echelons of previously male-dominated roles.

Other new offerings include Hot Topics panels, which will enable attendees to learn about a given topic from multiple speakers and perspectives in a single session, and improved business networking events where attendees can make new contacts and explore new professional opportunities.

Compared to the 2011 Congress, how has the focus in topics shifted? Do you see some specific trends in the project management space that affected this?
The PMI Global Congress 2011—North America focused on the delivery of general project management knowledge. Many of the topics above were addressed in some form, but this year, they will be examined more thoroughly, and in sessions designed for intermediate and advanced project professionals. This is based on direct attendee feedback, as well as on PMI’s Pulse of the Profession report and studies by the Anderson Economic Group, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and  the McKinsey Global Institute. Instead of doing an open call for papers, as we did in past years, PMI invested in extensive market research to determine the topics that are of most interest and need to our attendees, and this year’s offerings are the direct outcome of that feedback. We issued a targeted call for papers on the most requested topics to ensure that attendees would get the most value from their experience.

Is there any talk that you’re eager to hear personally?
With that line-up, how can I choose just one? Well, I’m very excited about the women in project management panel. The demographic of PM is definitely changing; women are project management leaders, and have been for quite some time, but they can be isolated in their professions because there are still fewer of them. It will be exciting to learn how the profession and organizations are evolving in this area.

And you can’t miss Marcus Buckingham. He’s such a dynamic speaker, with such profound cultural insights. The whole room will be hanging on his every word and I’ll be first in line to do that.

I’m also very excited about closing speaker James Kane, and I hope that everyone can attend. He’s talking very specifically about collaboration, which has become a key concept for project professionals: how do we collaborate in virtual team environments?  James Kane is both insightful and entertaining, and we’ll walk away with solid concepts that we can execute immediately.

The Congress is a big project, so could you share some lessons learned along the way that readers could apply to their events, or maybe projects in general?
It’s essential to have strong project management for an event of this magnitude. We’ve learned that a strong program manager is critical, as are skilled project managers for each work stream. Communication and accountability are key as well, along with strong leadership and technical skills. And never, ever forget an excellent sense of humor! It’s the only way to manage all of the moving parts so that the event comes together flawlessly.

Were there any interesting and fun anecdotes that you’d like to share?
One of the things we like to do each year is feature something fun, cool, and a little outside the box for technical project managers. Last year, attendees played Jeopardy against Watson. This year, we’ll get an up-close and personal look at the rebuilding of New Orleans through the experience of those who were actually there. These real-world scenarios, along with the social and networking events, are the backbone of the PMI Global Congress experience. There are more, of course, but to find out what it’s really about, you’ll have to attend.

This sounds like one of the prominent reasons to attend the Congress. Thank you for your time, Paula Jayne. It was a pleasure to talk to you in anticipation of the Congress. See you in Vancouver!