“Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create.” – Stephen M.R. Covey
It is no secret that the United States is experiencing one of its most challenging periods of time in terms of the level of trust among its constituents. As noted at the most recent Center for Exhibition Industry (CEIR) PREDICT conference this past September, this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer found that the general population’s trust in the media is currently at an all-time low in the report’s 18-year history. Trust in the government is equally dismal, with the decline of public trust earning the U.S. last place among the 28 global markets polled.
The survey also shows that in this trust turmoil, people are turning to organization leaders to serve as their sources for not only information, but for authority and actionable change. The majority of employees are calling for their company’s executive teams to lead the way in policy change as opposed to waiting on government entities. Responses reflect that employees trust that their employer will “do what is right,” thereby placing the onus on upper level executives to step up to the plate in restoring public trust.
How does this translate to the trade and consumer show industry?
I started off 2018 by talking about “showing up” every day and “walking the walk” to consistently deliver on your promises to your organization’s stakeholders. Here we are, nearly at the end of 2018, and my stance remains the same. Why? Because that commitment does not – and should not – change, regardless of the signs of the times.
Other lessons from PREDICT tell us that the outlook for the U.S. exhibition industry is tied to moderate GDP growth (with variable performance by sector). Given that the Total Index in 2017 grew by 2.0% and 1.6% in the first half of 2018, the Total Index performance for 2018 is likely to be slower than expected. We are definitely feeling the effect of the overall state of the union, which comes as no surprise. And if the issue of trust is playing a decisive role in this slight decline, then we must address it head on.
One of the most straightforward ways to develop trust among your stakeholders is through transparent business practices. Communication is key to keeping all parties informed and engaged in an organization’s initiatives and activities. As a trade association, IAEE not only encourages member participation, we rely on it! The direct involvement we have with our members lays the foundation upon which trust is built. Sharing information and being open to receiving feedback keeps the conversation flowing, allowing for growth and development.
Another source of trust is advocacy. As the Edelman report states, employees want their companies to advocate on their behalf. What better way to show your stakeholders you’ve got their backs than to act as their voice and represent their best interests? One of the reasons Exhibitions Day is so successful is because it gives members of our industry the opportunity to cut through the noise at Capitol Hill and make sure our lawmakers understand our position when determining policy that directly affects us. Every year, I experience extreme satisfaction seeing this initiative unify our industry and bring about positive results that we achieve together. I anticipate another highly successful Exhibitions Day on 5 June 2019.
Success can be contagious; in fact, it needs to be in order for any industry to thrive. When it comes to exhibitions and events, the goal stretches beyond simply bringing buyers and sellers together. Our focus as show organizers encompasses providing quality information and creating powerful experiences for our attendees, exhibitors and partners. Because the success of our shows reflects the success of our industry sectors.
The intertwining relationship between trust and collaboration is vital to any industry. I am proud of the fact that our industry leans toward the high end of the spectrum when it comes to our desire and willingness to work together. I am also happy to say that based on my collaborative experiences with fellow organization leaders throughout our industry, I trust we will weather the storm of our country’s current challenges successfully.
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO