July 14, 2024 1:58 PM
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Advocacy Matters!

by Bob McGlincy, Willwork

Tradeshows work. They work very well. But this wonderful, exciting, intriguing industry of ours is still an invisible one to many of those who work beyond the tradeshow floor. Explaining what we do, proclaiming its importance, and advocating for our business is critical. ECN reached out to industry leaders for their thoughts on advocacy:

Chris Griffin

EDPA President; CEO of CREW XP

“Advocacy is not an occasional event. It’s a constant attitude. You cannot wait for a crisis or conflict to get involved. We need to lay a foundation before those events happen.”

“That is what EDPA and ECA advocacy warriors have been doing these past three years—by engaging with our elected officials, news media outlets, and industry associations. We’re ensuring that all stakeholders understand the economic value the tradeshow and business event sectors contribute to the U.S. and global economies.”

Rob Cohen

2023 Hazel Hayes Award Winner, VP at Display Supply & Lighting, Inc.

“Advocacy continues to be one of the most important activities we can engage in as an industry.”

“It is so important to be heard as a collective voice on important matters, and we are fortunate to have the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance led by Tommy Goodwin to guide our collective efforts. Not only is it important to speak as a collective voice on matters like future workforce development, but we also build community within our industry at the same time. We will certainly achieve more together than we will ever accomplish alone!”

Julie Kagy

CEM, ESCA Executive Director

“Advocacy is not just a buzzword for us—it’s a strategic and vital part of our mission. We strive to ensure that our industry’s unique challenges and contributions are recognized and addressed at all levels.”

“Advocacy is crucial in our industry as it helps amplify voices and drive positive change. It has proven to be a game-changer, especially during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic unfolded, it became evident that our industry was underrepresented in critical conversations and decision-making processes. This realization fueled the formation of the Events & Conferences Alliance (ECA), a collective effort by eight key industry associations. The ECA has become a powerful force, amplifying our voice on Capitol Hill and advocating for the interests of our industry. This unified front has elevated our presence and allowed us to present a cohesive and impactful narrative.”

Vincent Polito


“It has never been more important for policymakers to understand and support the impact that our industry has on driving economic growth, supporting job creation, and empowering small businesses.”

“That’s why SISO is the leading supporter of the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance and its advocacy work on behalf of the industry in Washington, DC and nationwide.”

“Effective advocacy campaigns can influence policymakers to enact favorable regulations, secure funding for industry initiatives, and promote the economic significance of tradeshows. The Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance is a coalition of the leading professional, industry, and labor organizations that comprise the unified advocacy voice of the business events industry and fight for our industry’s rights daily.”

Brad Falberg

President of Exhibitus, Inc.

“When I think of advocacy, I think of it in two different forms. First, I think of advocating for our industry in general, and second, I think of advocating for the industry’s economic engine—the exhibitor.”

“We learned a lot from the pandemic. No one was hit harder than exhibitions and conferences. We were dead in the water for 16 months. Worse, we seemed invisible to the news media, government, and the general public. This caused a rallying cry from all parts of the industry and, ultimately, the formation of the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance: a collaboration of eight different industry associations.  The new alliance combined forces to make our voices heard on Capitol Hill and helped include us in the Paycheck Protection Program one and two and the Employee Retention Tax Credit.  These programs literally saved my company as well as, I’m sure, many more in the industry. I highly recommend attending the Legislative Action Day in Washington on May 30.  I have gone or participated with each one for the last six years.  Meeting with your representatives to make them aware of our industry and its importance, as well as to propose specific ‘asks,’ makes you feel like you are participating in the political process and making a difference in our industry and for your company.

“The second kind of advocacy is for the exhibitors. I have spoken and written for years about the unintended consequences of skyrocketing drayage. Everyone knows that the general contractor uses drayage or material handling and the show organizer collects revenue to provide aisle carpet, signs, and all of the other infrastructure needed to run the show without charging the exhibitors or attendees in some other way. I understand that the revenue has to be collected somehow to run the show. Basing it on weight, however, is harming the medium. I implore show organizers, the general contractors, and exhibitors alike to tackle this issue to reduce the material handling rates so that exhibitors will renew their passion for spectacular exhibits and the resultant marketing value they will enjoy.”

Rochelle Richardson

CEM, Senior Vice President of Expositions and Events at AVIXA

“As a trade association and producer of tradeshows worldwide, AVIXA recognizes the importance of advocacy for the exhibition industry. Our commitment is to foster collaboration with fellow industry leaders to champion policies and initiatives that impact positive transformation and outcomes.

“Over the past few years, AVIXA has supported the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance (ECA), a coalition of leading professional, industry, and labor organizations that comprise the unified advocacy voice of the business events industry.

“I am actively involved in the upcoming ECA Legislation Action Day and will join others in the exhibitions and events industry on May 30 in Washington, DC, to meet with policymakers about ECA’s top federal policies. We supported the recent FTC rule that acts against tradeshow scammers, including hotel reservation scams and attendee list sale scams. In addition, we supported the policy to improve visa operations to grow international travel and commerce.

“This year, we will focus efforts on helping the industry attract and train the next-generation workforce and further reduce visa wait times. We recognize the ability to influence elected officials’ actions by sharing the economic growth, job creation, and capacity to empower small businesses our industry has by joining forces in Washington, DC, each year.”

Final Thoughts

Our industry has been “invisible” for far too long. If we want to be heard, we have to speak up.  If we want to be seen, we have to become more visible. One way to effect change is to get involved in industry associations and with issues that matter to you. In addition to promoting the industry, there are other areas one can advocate for. A sampling includes workforce development, attendee acquisition, visa delays, health and safety, exhibitor ROI, diversity sustainability, and green initiatives.

ECA’s Legislative Action Day 2024 be held on Thursday, May 30, in Washington, D.C. This is an opportunity to speak with legislators and network with industry professionals. It is an opportunity to discuss the industry and its policies and concerns. Will you or someone from your company be attending? The link to registration is eca.customreg.net, or you can visit the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance web page to learn more.


This story originally appeared in the Q2 2024 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 58. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_q1_2024.

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