by: Carrie Ferenac, President & Co-Founder, CNTV and IAEE Advocacy Chair
“I remember you”. That’s what Senator Bill Nelson’s aide first said as he greeted us in the Senate Hart Office Building. “Exhibitions and tradeshows, right? You were here last year talking about Zika, and here’s what the Senator did after your visit”. Wow. I was almost speechless! The Senator fought for funding to educate people about Zika because of its potentially devastating impact on the tourism industry in his home state of Florida. We had made a difference.
While we weren’t addressing Zika this year, we were tackling issues that are equally important. This year, we were there promoting Fair and Free Trade, specifically asking for support of Brand USA, asking representatives to co-sponsor the Stop Hotel Booking Scams Act, and to support America’s Airport Infrastructure Act.
I’ve attended Exhibitions Day all four years since it’s inception, and the impact is growing every year. Not only are members of Congress now remembering us, they remember our causes, and take them to heart.
As part of the Florida contingency, I attended meetings with vendors from the sunshine state, as well as show organizers from NPE, IAAPA and SGIA…. all who hold their events in Orlando. When we met with Representative Stephanie Murphy from Orlando, she was feverishly taking notes. Her eyes lit up with Alan Carter told her that NPE brings more than 60,000 people to her district. “60,000?? Wow. That’s huge for the economy”, she said. Why yes, Congresswoman, it is…. to the tune of $1.2 billion a year in Florida alone. She committed to supporting Brand USA and to researching the hotel booking scams.
We heard story after story like that as we crisscrossed Capitol Hill and ran into our colleagues. My friend Kellie Shevlin, who runs the Craft Beverage Expo, was a first-timer. She hadn’t really believed that meeting with members of Congress could make much of a difference – until she did it. In fact, Senator Ron Wyden committed to supporting the Stop Hotel Booking Scam Act after his meeting with Kellie and her group. She had made a difference.
While I am convinced our meetings have an impact on specific legislation, I’m even more convinced the outreach has a wider influence. My posts on Facebook and Instagram pages alone reached more than 1000 people. Many of those folks are in different industries, and may not otherwise know about the importance of Exhibitions and Events. Multiple that by the 112 people who attended Exhibitions Day, and the impact is exponential.
There was energy about Exhibitions Day this year that felt different from years past, and I believe that our influence will continue to grow. My hope is that next year every attendee hears those special words from a member of Congress, “I remember you… Exhibitions and tradeshows, right?”