Is now the right time to come together?
Once upon a time, when the world was a very different place, when marketing budgets meant that if a company wanted to spend a million dollars on a gala dinner without being scrutinized for it and did, we could afford to be working in an industry with so many disparate parts.
This was a time when attending an exhibition meant building a stand that cost you many times more than you’d spent on your exhibition space, and when you had enough time and money to allow you and your staff to attend that industry conference. Heck, you might even have gone to a few throughout the year.
But whether we like it or not, that world that we knew less than a decade ago just isn’t here anymore. And, with the impact COVID-19 has had, it very well won’t ever be coming back.
Now of course this is fine. It is, as they say, what it is. We’re a resilient bunch and we’re damn good at adapting.
But think about this… We’ve all seen the changes in the media world since the high-speed internet really hit its straps. And, from the look of things, the media has taken the punches and in many areas is now probably better for it. The dead wood has been cut and the strong have survived.
And that’s exactly what we’re seeing in our sector. Many businesses are flourishing and others, who have been able to hold on, are now hopeful of staying the course, even if they don’t have the experienced staff to do it 100 per cent just yet. Many have sadly gone and won’t be coming back.
If the last few years have taught us anything it is the value of strong advocacy on behalf of our industry. Talk to most people who have stayed on and they’ll tell you that they’re prepared to support one united push to get our sector front and centre of government. But in the next breath they’ll ask – and rightly so – how can we effectively do this across multiple industry groups?
One of the big challenges for business events right now – aside from staff – is that we remain a fractured segment. There is no one voice for our industry. There is no one body that can take our story to the NEW Federal Government or, should I say, no one body that many of us working in business events and the greater community really know much about.
I’m certainly not the first person to raise this issue but what better time is there than right now to seriously look at it again?
It might have been okay to have a handful of industry associations that we were members of pre-pandemic. There was good marketing money to support them and we at Tourism Portfolio supported quite a few. Paying our memberships each year, attending the annual conference, and occasionally learning something. And, we have remained members of many.
But seriously, something’s gotta give. Some leaders within our industry associations have to step up and say, `Hey, it’s been great but for the good of business events as a whole, we have to become one.’
The majority of those working in our industry are small businesses. How many of these are going to attend three or four industry meetings a year in 2022? It’s not a matter of not wanting to go but moreover who can afford it in terms of time and money?
What new government is going to take our industry seriously by listening to the concerns and recommendations of three or four or five industry associations? They could have a very real conversation if there was only one.
Just as an engineering conference may have streams in areas of specialisation like mechanical engineering and electrical engineering and civil engineering – there is no reason why one business events industry association couldn’t do the same.
Why couldn’t one BE association have a meetings division an exhibition division an incentive division an AV division and an events division?
We’ve had a great run. Let’s just not ruin it now by trying to maintain the status quo when everything in our world has changed. We’ve spoken about this for so long. Now – I hope – it’s the right time to make this happen.
Do you agree or have I finally lost the plot?