Peter Jones responds to the formation of the ABEA
Back in 2020 – 21 the events industry was in chaos, especially in Victoria which suffered the longest lockdowns in Australia, I was part of the Business Events Advisory Group who met regularly with the Victorian Tourism and Major Events Minister, who at one stage asked us
“Exactly what the X!?! is the events industry?”
He explained that he had the following groups sorted – Major Events, Theatre/Creative/Artistic, Business Events, Conferences and Exhibitions.
“But do you consider people who organise weddings, school fetes, and audio visual suppliers as part of the events industry?”
The answer of course is yes, but that didn’t help the Minister at the time and I understand why. Even I had to stop and think about how to rationalize our industry, to those particularly in government, who only thought of an event as the Grand Prix or the AFL Grand Final.
Fast forward to now and the news of the formation of the Australian Business Events Association (ABEA), which is a direct result of the many lessons learnt during the COVID period.
It is a great initiative and a credit to all those who made it happen and it will provide a voice on behalf of the industry to Government from all members on a national basis.
But you are right Trevor in that it does not represent other businesses in the industry who do not operate in that market. However, I say this knowing the greater majority do in general work across different event sectors – mine included – so we are really talking about a specially targeted group.
The question then really has to be asked –
“Is there a need and demand for another version – Australian Events Association?”
This discussion starts primarily with what we do expect from our current membership organisation and are they delivering?
How important is networking; an awards process, accreditation or even training?
What I was looking for from associations years ago is very different to what I need now but that may not be the same for everyone.
The proof now will be how many of these existing organisations adapt to the ever changing landscape of our industry.
For many of those involved, I know ABEA has taken a lot of time and effort to merge already existing industry organisations and it came at a substantial financial investment – not to mention its ongoing costs to run.
So in theory, if that is to be replicated we need to consider the following questions:
- Exactly who wants to be part of a potential new national organisation and is there a gap in the market?
- Will other already established existing groups such as the Festival and Wedding associations, want to give up their autonomy to do so?
- Is there really a demand to drive this? Does an event organiser/supplier say in Perth who does 95% of their business locally really care about what is happening in Brisbane or Canberra?
From my discussion with some key players, the answer is: whilst it’s great in theory, it has no real chance of happening on a national basis!
Basically, unless someone has a very big cheque book and lots of time to champion the cause, it will stay a good idea in name only.
However, there may be another path to consider; as the old saying goes “if you can’t beat them, join them”
ABEA will be a success, because it has the right people behind it, so why not look at the option of joining them?
I know the current name has business events in it, but it would still represent anyone who works in the industry and wants to be a member.
Surely we’re not that precious to let the name get in the way if it was a visible option.
By doing so, the strength of any organisation grows as does its ability to deliver benefits for its members.
Who knows, one day it might add another letter to its name to further broaden its representation as a powerful voice.
What’s best for our industry and the billions of dollars it generates?
You only have to look at this weeks Victorian budget where there were cuts everywhere but funding for major events was maintained. Our industry is strong, and therefore we need to ensure we have a strong voice to reflect that; or do we go with the status quo of lots of small voices competing for space?
If you don’t feel the need to be a member then fine, but I think this is a great strategic option that we should consider.
As always, I welcome comments and other thoughts. In the meantime, I’ll ask the newly appointed chair, Peter King, what he thinks but we’ll never know if we don’t at least raise the issue.