By this point, most event and exhibition professionals have at least a general knowledge of the key issues that were brought to the forefront by Exhibitions Mean Business’ Exhibitions Day on June 9 in Washington, D.C.
Additionally, they no doubt have a better understanding of all the statistics, such as the industry’s $71.3 billion contribution to the U.S. GDP and how it supports 1.8 million jobs across the country. CEIR statistics like these confirmed that Exhibitions Mean Business and ensured the nation’s leaders knew it too.
Highlighting the tradeshow industry’s economic impact proved effective as indicated by Freeman’s Senior Vice President of Business Solutions Christie Greenleaf, who said the U.S. Congress members and staff she spoke to were impressed by ‘the sheer numbers.’
What can also make a difference – as shown by the Exhibitions Day experience of Greenleaf — is when an exhibition company lobbies to a member of Congress or their staff on a level that hits home. This includes demonstrating the exhibition company’s impact on the destination the Congressional leader represents.
“One of the strongest marketing solutions from Freeman XP is participant profiling. The exhibitor or show organizer needs to know who they are trying to drive to action. Customized messages make a huge difference,” said Greenleaf. “We are getting smarter about learning what Congress [needs to know to be driven to action]. CEIR complements this with their data. We have the analytics to share. When we put it in the right context, it makes a huge difference.”
A provider of integrated brand experiences and a founding member of the Exhibitions Mean Business campaign, Freeman customized its advocacy messages on two fronts: social media and on the ground in D.C.
Through the company’s active social media presence, Freeman spoke to Congress and fellow exhibition industry professionals, including its own employees, about why the annual Exhibitions Day continues to be important. On Capitol Hill, Greenleaf spoke to Senate leaders representing key exhibition cities.
On Social Media
Not everyone could travel to Washington, D.C. to join the 112 individuals and 16 organizations that contributed to the record-breaking second annual Exhibitions Day. Instead, more than 350 influencers showed support through social media.
“Those are great numbers to speak about how far reaching the exhibition industry is,” commented Greenleaf.
Across the U.S., Freeman employees creatively demonstrated their support of Exhibitions Day and Greenleaf’s sojourn to the U.S. Senate. Within their natural work environments – on a forklift or in various service departments, Freeman employees held signs advocating Exhibitions Day. Having some fun with the experience, one employee advocated from a trunk in the AV department. Overall, 330 images were posted on Facebook.
More than 2,300 liked the photos on the Freeman employee Facebook page, according to Greenleaf.
Freeman communicated through every major social media platform: On Twitter, 29 tweets sparked 23,400 impressions. Ten posts on the company Facebook fan page led to 5,575 impressions. Six LinkedIn posts gained 22,041 impressions, 65 interactions and 98 clicks.
“Two blogs we launched also got picked up by CEIR and IAEE,” she added. “It really helped drive the message of the campaign.”
On Capitol Hill
While social media proved complementary to the Exhibitions Mean Business campaign, the nearly 100 meetings between Congress members and industry advocates illustrated that nothing beats the face-to-face engagement opportunities provided by tradeshows.
“Congress members and their staff were receptive,” said Greenleaf. “I talked about the U.S. GDP, how investments have shifted to experiential marketing and that 68.9 million attendees went to B2B exhibitions in 2014 and 2.1 million companies exhibited.”
In the Senate, Greenleaf met with leaders representing Chicago, Las Vegas and New York. While reacquainting herself with the familiar faces she originally met during last year’s inaugural Exhibitions Day, Greenleaf illustrated Freeman’s impact on their cities.
The company produces more than 4,300 exhibitions annually. This contributes a $600 million economic impact for cities like Chicago, Las Vegas and New York.
“Freeman has 70 offices in the U.S. and Canada representing over 5,000 employees, and when each city’s [employees] were highlighted: NYC — 238, Las Vegas — 667, and Chicago — 523, plus the thousands of W2s per event, they understood the significant labor investment per city,” added Greenleaf. “In Las Vegas alone, we have 750,000 square feet of office/warehouse space. When you tell Congressional leaders these statistics and what you bring to their city, we look important to their vote.”
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) serves on the Senate Transportation Committee, along with a few other committees. Many industry advocates spoke with Heller and other leaders about several key issues — Trade Promotion Authority, Open Skies, government employee participation at events and the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act. The JOLT Act, in particular, calls for taking action to increase international travel to the U.S.
“We let them know that [JOLT] preserves travel safety measures and that increased international travel allows for increased international attendance at exhibitions,” added Greenleaf. “Because of so much red tape, people may choose not to come to the U.S. and instead go to competing events [in other countries]. About $4,300 per trip is what the international traveler spends. That’s significant tax revenue for the visited city.”
Coming two days after the conclusion of Exhibitions Day, Heller’s policy advisor sent an email to Greenleaf sharing a letter written that day from Senators Heller and Harry Reid to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.
“[The letter] underscored the importance of international travel and tourism to our state and country and ensures any executive branch action does not undermine U.S. Open Skies policies generally,” she explained.
Greenleaf also had an important food for thought for Congressional leaders. She wanted them to know that reduced government employee attendance at tradeshows and meetings not only harms the growth of exhibition companies, but it also interferes with continuing education opportunities for government employees.
“[Government employees] are losing their edge to the private sector. Military dentists couldn’t go to dental shows. Their peers are getting cutting-edge education. There’s a bigger education gap that’s happening, and our military and government employees are being affected,” she added.
Launched by International Association of Exhibitions and Events in 2011, the Exhibitions Mean Business campaign, which includes more than 80 sponsors, raises awareness about the impact of face-to-face meetings. As part of its advocacy measures, the campaign established Exhibitions Day in 2014.