PMA University is the centerpiece of the independent publisher’s professional efforts to sustain and renew ourselves. Increasingly, PMA University is shying away from the expert-lecture approach given to a mute, somnolent, sheep-like audience. Instead, PMA-U sessions emphasize opportunities for communication with other members of the association. For many of us, this meeting is one of the few opportunities to experience the emerging diversity of our membership, to meet the newest entrepreneurs of our profession, and to celebrate the achievements of our most accomplished and respected colleagues through the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards program.
In the final analysis, however, perhaps the major reason for attending PMA University is simply to be there, to escape for at least a few hours into a private sanctuary of our profession for renewal, fellowship, networking, and the celebration of the values and ideals we subscribe to as publishers. It is a time-honored activity that is familiar to academics, scholars, and businessmen who have taken a dream and decided to share it with others in print or by electronic means. I find myself awed by the talent, humanity, and immense capacity to contribute and share that I find in the publishing members I meet at PMA University.
I am increasingly attracted to the Q&A portions of our sessions, where you experience the very essence of learning about our industry. After considerable practice, I’ve learned to scan the room and predict-on the basis of their emotional energy-who is going to ask the insightful questions or provide the seminal observation based on real-life experience. Sometimes it will be a young homemaker who has decided to publish a favorite book of recipes or has developed a formula for making ends meet in our hectic and stress-filled lives; at other times, it is a graying, self-effacing senior who is preparing to share a lifetime of practical learning and experience; and sometimes it is a young student barely able to contain his or her enthusiasm for a new venture.
The common denominator for all of us at PMA University is the sense of sheer joy in celebrating the profession. This enthusiasm is incredibly infectious, and soon others who never dreamed they would get up and speak at a public meeting are lining up to ask their questions. When the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards are given, more often than not there are tears of pride and a sense of accomplishment, not only from the recipients, but among the audience as well.
These are very special moments, and the opportunity to share such emotion is almost nonexistent outside this venue. For a short while, we are all “in the zone.” Publishers leave the meeting with a sense of the tradition of PMA, enthused by the wisdom provided through the mixture of youth, entrepreneurial spirit, and experience, and rejuvenated by pride in what we are doing with our lives. The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.
In the final analysis, what really binds our profession together is not our common financial interests, nor even the body of knowledge that we so meticulously develop into books and electronic products, but the shared experiences we all go through in our professional lives, working with a best-seller or flop, and the way we have incorporated these experiences into our values.
So why don’t you take a moment and look at this year’s PMA University announcement. See if there aren’t several courses where your professional experience might be expanded and your enthusiasm for our profession rekindled. Mark the dates on your calendar. Reserve them as you would a family anniversary or important event and be there!
One of the greatest gifts and honors you can give to a valued publishing colleague is to extend a personal invitation to PMA University. You owe it to yourself and your profession to attend.
Robin Bartlett is the Director of Marketing for the American College of Physicians, and a member of the PMA Board of Directors with responsibility for planning PMA University.