By: Jessica Finnerty, Manager, Meetings and Events at Auto Care Association
In 2016, I attended my first IAEE Exhibitions Day. It was an exciting moment, as it was my first time being able to become a “Washington Insider”, despite having lived in the D.C Metro area all of my adult life. After thorough prep, courtesy of the staff at IAEE and their political consultants for the event, I found myself on Capitol Hill and armed with information on the issues at hand and how they affected both my show and the industry at large.
Although my association is based out of Maryland, both of my annual shows take place in Las Vegas, so I met with representatives from Nevada. This gave me the opportunity for additional relevance, as I was able to draw a connection with how our issues were affecting both representative’s districts. Our first meeting with Harry Reid’s office went well, but our second meeting with Dina Titus and her staff was exceptional. Before leaving, I invited her office to visit my show some time and we exchanged information. I left feeling as though my voice had actually been heard and maybe, just maybe, I had made a difference.
Afterwards I spoke with my colleagues in our government affairs department and let them know about the experience. One of the major points from the pre-event training was that follow-up is critical and I was happy to work in tandem with our trained team to ensure that the momentum continued. Our government affairs professionals utilized their relationships and knowledge of the Hill to schedule additional meetings. In the coming months, they cultivated a relationship with Congresswoman Titus’ staff and eventually the Congresswoman herself. During these meetings our team continued to push the significance that our show has to her district – not only in tourism dollars, but also in labor hours for her constituents. And after a few meetings, Congresswoman Dina Titus agreed to visit AAPEX.
When the Congresswoman and her staff arrived, both myself and my colleagues from government affairs greeted them. I kicked off the tour by providing an overview of the 2016 show, including attendance and exhibitor numbers, as well as the number of local employment days represented by our move-in/ move-out window. My government affairs team then took over, conducting a pre-arranged tour of three high-profile exhibitors. At each booth sales representatives took a moment to explain their company, their products and their relevance to the industry. Congresswoman Titus seemed genuinely engaged, asking questions and posing for photo ops with each company. Our exhibitors were over the moon. At the end of the tour she took some time to speak with our Association CEO and even did a brief interview with our daily news reel, AAPEX TV. Before departing, she turned to me and said “You have an amazing show and should be very proud”. And in that moment, proud was an understatement.
In just a few short weeks Exhibitions Day 2017 will commence, and I am looking forward to being able to bring new issues into the spotlight. I am hoping that the foundation which has already has already been laid will help increase relevance and strengthen the voice of the expositions industry. And I am hoping that this coming meeting will prove to be another stepping stone in our budding relationship between our show and Capitol Hill. Next year we are hoping to bring Congresswoman Titus back during move-in, so that she can see first-hand the impact that we have on her constituents. And we are working on expanding our reach, with our government affairs team already in talks to bring in officials from Reno and surrounding districts.
Your voice CAN be heard. Thank you Exhibitions Day and the staff at IAEE.