The trade show industry’s transition from survival mode to actionable recovery mode has provided the opportunity to evaluate where we have been, where we are and where we want to be. The first two considerations are fairly cut and dry; the third is where the skies open up and the rubber meets the road. As such, it is where we can make the most headway.
This exploration has led to our industry’s latest collaborative initiative, the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance (ECA). The ECA reflects the progression of years of advocacy efforts from a united front encompassing dozens of industry organizations and hundreds of individual professionals dedicated to our collective growth and advancement.
Where We Have Been
The Exhibitions Mean Business (EMB) Campaign and IAEE Exhibitions Day were launched in 2014 in response to the industry-wide realization that U.S. lawmakers were grossly unaware of the economic impact attributable to our industry. Furthermore, without conveying our importance to the nation’s economy and greater business framework, how could we (the industry) expect them to act in our best interest when passing legislation?
As organizations representing all facets of the trade show industry joined EMB and industry professionals personally traveled to Capitol Hill on IAEE Exhibitions Day to educate lawmakers on who we are and what we do, our bandwidth has grown exponentially. We have not only demonstrated the undeniable value of our industry, but have successfully lobbied for considerations that matter most to our industry.
Where We Are
The trailblazing groundwork accomplished by EMB and IAEE Exhibitions Day was critically important last year when COVID ravaged our industry. Last April saw the launch of Go LIVE Together, a coalition of 80 founding partners representing more than 4,000 companies under the leadership of Freeman. It has garnered over 2,500 supporting organizations and individuals in its mission to ensure our industry is included in legislative COVID relief.
This collaboration celebrated a formidable victory when our industry was included in the COVID economic relief package approved by U.S. legislators last December. However, it also demonstrated the need for a full-time legislative action government affairs program based in Washington, D.C. that can continue to build the relationships necessary to yield effective advocacy results. The ECA will act as that governing entity to champion the ongoing movement on behalf of our industry.
Where We Want to Be
The ECA’s immediate priority will be to continue pushing for federal relief for our industry, which consists of approximately 90 percent small businesses. Our main short-term focus rests upon recovery and stimulus legislative action to shore up and grow our industry into 2021, 2022 and beyond.
The overarching purpose of the ECA, however, denotes a much longer-term commitment. We have covered much ground in educating legislators about our industry, but we still have a way to go. Think about this: our industry is larger than the auto industry, yet they have had a dedicated presence on Capitol Hill for decades! We want to mirror the influence obtained by groups such as the auto and restaurant industries, who no longer need to explain why their voice matters to lawmakers.
I invite you to join us on our journey if you haven’t already and stay the course with us if you have. An alliance, by its very nature, affords different companies and individuals the chance to contribute to the common goal in different ways. For example, the Exhibitions Mean Business Campaign, ECA – Exhibitions and Conferences Legislation Action Day (formerly IAEE Exhibitions Day) and Go LIVE Together will continue their missions. Your voice will always make a difference and strengthen our position. Learn more and find out how you can make your voice heard at www.iaee.com/advocacy.