I have just returned from a speaking engagement for the World Meeting Forum in Cancun, Mexico. As a representative of IFES, I spoke to the differences when doing tradeshows from one country to the next. The purpose of the Forum is to exchange ideas and trends with expo associations and expo industry leaders within the MICE industry.
WMF holds its meeting in a different location each year and extends meeting space for expo associations to conduct a separate board meetings, and then join as one to hear speakers with topics of mutual interest.
The one thing that surprised me was the number of associations that I have never heard of. In North America alone, there are 22 major associations dedicated to the meeting and convention industry. I suspect that there are over 100 more associations throughout the world. Each of the associations I spoke with clearly saw their existence and influence near the top of the industry food chain. The truth of the matter is that no one industry segment fully represents the full breadth of what the exposition industry represents in terms of value. Each association integrates with the other and collectively supports the full strength and power of face to face marketing.
As the world of meeting, events and tradeshow marketing continues to evolve, we become further interconnected as a part of the whole. The world is getting smaller and the markets are growing bigger. Our awareness of the different exhibit and meeting industry associations is key to reaching global unity and understanding. Many associations are beginning to expand their reach with the services they offer, and thus overlap their services with other association services. We cannot be members to all of the groups, so expansion can be good to get dual benefits from membership to a single association. Consolidation will happen and will be driven by the membership interests for other ancillary services. There will always be unique differences when doing tradeshows in other countries. There is no need to consolidate all world associations as one, but not a bad idea to share and implement the best practices in areas like sustainability, safety and exhibit space regulations for starters.
The World Meeting Forum (www.wmforum.org) is not suggesting that one association is better or stronger than the other. They simply want dialogue between world associations, resulting in better ideas that strengthen the power of face to face marketing on a global scale.
So, as the letters of the association alphabet (in many different languages) exist to represent the world of face to face marketing, let’s be mindful to integrate the best expo business practices to pave the way for sharing unified global meeting practices that make it easier, and to be jointly responsible, when participating in a new international world.
There is no right way, there is no wrong way; there is only a different way. In this case, a different way that can work for all who elect to play the meeting and expo game globally.