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Advocacy in the Wake of COVID-19

IAEE President & CEO David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA speaks on the importance of continual advocacy for the exhibitions and events industry, the important initiatives the Exhibitions Mean Business team is taking on and how you can join in spreading the word.

Originally published by Trade Show Executive

Never in my wildest dreams did I think the first half of 2020 would turn out as it has. Advocacy has always been a pillar of IAEE’s strategic plan, but it has taken on a renewed focus and importance in the wake of COVID-19.

Leading up to the start of 2020, advocacy efforts focused on the Exhibitions Mean Business (EMB) Campaign’s annual legislative fly-in, Exhibitions Day; key communications throughout the year on general topics affecting the industry; promoting the value and importance of business-to-business exhibitions in local, state and national economies through various channels; and worldwide efforts on Global Exhibitions Day.

Once COVID-19 was truly being felt in the United States and around the world, the U.S. live events industry, along with the rest of the country, had come to a grinding halt. Toward the end of March, we began to realize the truly dire circumstances we were in. Daily conversations were happening with other heads of industry associations trying to gauge the impact of this pandemic with news coverage of COVID-19 changing hour over hour. Industry associations began sending out key communications summarizing and informing their members on ways to get involved while offering a platform to discuss their concerns and how to cope with the reality we are all living in now.

The role of advocacy has never been more important than it is now. Since March, industry associations have closely collaborated, combining resources and communications strategies to rally their members into action to support the CARES Act, Payroll Protection Program funding, the HEROES Act and now the Pandemic Risk Reinsurance Program that provides liability protections for businesses. IAEE along with the U.S. Travel Association, American Society of Association Executives, Destinations International, the Go LIVE Together Coalition, Meetings Mean Business Coalition, Events Industry Council and countless others, have sent out action alerts on various issues and used the power of our collective voice to contacts Congress for help. Has it always helped like we would want it to? No, but legislation doesn’t happen overnight.  We are all in this fight together and will come out ahead by beating the drum and calling on our elected officials in the U.S. and around the world, to let us get back to the business of live events.

I fondly remember my meeting with Paul Woodward in 2015, former Managing Director of UFi, where I came up with the idea to collaborate on launching a Global Exhibitions Day, which debuted in 2016. It somewhat mirrored the existing Exhibitions Day in the U.S. It is inspiring to be a part of a dedicated day to celebrate and promote our global exhibitions and events industry during the first week of June each year.

June 3, 2020 marked the seventh annual Exhibitions Day, but this year the event went virtual. More than 600 people from across all industry segments took part in the virtual day of action where attendees networked in breakout rooms, made their voices heard through social channels, and called and emailed Congressional offices. The power of our collective voice has never been stronger. On Twitter alone, our efforts reached close to 700,000 users.

It is important to note that being part of an advocacy movement is not a short game. It is very much a long game. We have to, as a unified voice in the exhibitions industry, keep beating the drum that exhibitions mean business. I will close by saying that it is important to lean on one another and lean on your industry association in times of crisis. We will come through this, albeit a bit beat up, but the appeal and human need for face-to-face interaction will never be extinguished.

David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO

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