Taking Action on Exhibitions Day

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait a very, very long time.”

In the spirit of taking action on issues that impact our industry (rather than waiting for a well-aimed duck), on June 7, 2017, more than 110 industry leaders made over 100 scheduled visits to the offices of Senators and members of Congress to discuss issues of importance to the exhibitions and events business. Simultaneously, there was a worldwide celebration of Global Exhibitions Day, a highly successful cooperative effort between UFI and IAEE, with more than 60 countries participating.

Exhibitions Day participants attended a prep session on June 6, to review issue statements and watch a role play of a typical meeting. Carrie Ferenac of CNTV, the chairperson of the IAEE Advocacy Committee, called Exhibitions Day an “adult field trip,” and even showed a video clip from Schoolhouse Rock to remind us of how a bill becomes a law. Issues included:

  • Support for the continuation of Brand USA (targeted for elimination in the President's proposed budget)
  • Infrastructure support, including H.R. 1265 (Rebuilding America's Airport Infrastructure Act)
  • Stopping online booking scams (H.R. 2495 and S. 1164)
  • The industry security initiative – the alignment of Exhibition and Meetings Safety and Security Initiative (EMSSI) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the need for necessary resources for the DHS SAFETY Act

Click here to view a video from The Exhibitions Channel recapping Exhibitions Day 2017.

Why did I make Exhibitions Day a priority, along with GES colleagues Jack Patronski, Bob O’Connell, Russell Schneider and Joe Miller?

1. We CAN make a difference

This is how government works. Representatives and their staff have a huge volume of information to sift through and prioritize. Our role was to present compelling information in a concise manner, and make a case for the representative or senator to become involved, either through future votes, and/or as sponsors for bills. We were well prepared by the IAEE staff, led by Nicole Bowman, VP of Marketing & Communications, and by Roger Rickard of Voices in Advocacy.

2. Numbers count

We participants were armed with facts that helped tell our story, like the $80 billion that exhibitions and events contribute to the GDP, and state-specific facts like numbers of exhibitions, meeting attendees and the revenue contributed to the state annually. I also had GES-specific information as an employer and taxpayer, and I know other participants shared information about the contributions of their exhibitions or organization.

This is the fourth year that IAEE has taken a group to the Hill, and there is a noticeable improvement in the awareness of our issues and industry when we meet with staff and elected officials. While the final analytics are not yet available, the social media engagement for both Exhibitions Day and Global Exhibitions Day were monumental.

Please plan to join us next year in Washington, DC, for Exhibitions Day, and look for ways that you can share the value of exhibitions and events throughout the year. For more information on how to get involved, go to www.exhibitionsday.org.

About the Author

Julia Smith

Julia Smith, CEM, CTA is Senior Vice President of Exhibition Sales at GES, where she has been collaborating with exhibition clients for more than 32 years. She is a past President of ESCA and a past Chairperson of IAEE, and is currently serving on the Events Industry Council's COVID-19 Business Recovery Task Force.

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