Washington, DC – The trade show industry is set to light a fire under Congress when it climbs Capitol Hill on Exhibitions Day later this month.
The inaugural Exhibitions Day on June 16-17 is an outreach event led by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) and other prominent industry associations aimed at refreshing the collective memory of Congress about the importance of meetings and trade shows to the U.S. economy. The goal is to encourage lawmakers to not let legislation that is important to the industry languish amid the Beltway’s many political distractions.
“We are coalescing around a lot of the important issues that have been discussed and understood at the legislative level in Washington, DC,” IAEE President David DuBois said.
To date, 85 industry executives had registered to take part in the lobbying blitz, including TSE’s President Darlene Gudea and Senior Editor Hil Anderson. Delegates will meet with selected members of Congress and their legislative aides, and key academics and national news media from the Washington area.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is one of the lawmakers who agreed to get behind trade shows. He will not only meet with an Exhibitions Day delegation, but also has decided to add his name and cache to a bill reauthorizing the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, which is aimed at increasing the number of international visitors to the U.S.
Bishop represents downtown Salt Lake City, home to the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center and his state’s convention industry. Exhibitions Day will remind lawmakers from cities nationwide that a lot of their constituents benefit from a thriving convention and trade show industry.
A delegation of industry leaders will meet the previous day with senior officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce and hold a forum for college business and marketing professors who may include the subject trade shows in their courses.
Exhibition Day follows a battle-tested strategy of bringing in select industry leaders from around the country to meet with elected lawmakers to urge them to get behind legislation that will benefit the industry.
The lobbyists-for-a-day are drawn from the ranks of show organizers and associations including IAEE, the Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA), International Venue Management Association (IAVM) and others. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) will make sure that everyone is armed with the latest and best economic data; Trade Show Executive is a media partner for the event.
DRUMMING UP ENTHUSIASM
The message being carried to the hallowed halls of the Capitol is hardly controversial. But that doesn’t mean getting needed legislation passed will be an easy task. Mid-term elections are looming and the “silly season” surrounding the 2016 presidential race is right around the corner, which traditionally means the pace of business in Congress slows considerably.
“We have our work cut out for us,” said Jonathan Grella, senior vice president of legislative and public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association.
Grella said the travel lobby may not have the clout that the oil industry and other major players wield. That means there is a real danger that desirable legislation will wither and die in committees. “They already are not terribly inclined to do much,” he said. “Inertia is our enemy.”
The Exhibitions Day messengers will be well rehearsed when they arrive for their congressional meetings. The pitch will be tailored for quick and to-the-point delivery in 30 minutes or less with an emphasis on what the industry can do for their constituents and what Congress can do for the industry. “You have to go in with a script and a goal,” Grella said.
Megan Tanel, co-chair of the Exhibitions Day organizing committee and vice president of exhibitions & events for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), said there would be “an ‘ask’ component” in each presentation where the representative and their legislative staff would be asked straight out to get behind measures that will likely contribute to busy trade show calendars in their home states.
IAEE has thought of everything, and is preparing the delegation with a 30-minute webinar, “Anticipating Your Advocacy Adventure” on June 10.