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ESCA Summer Educational Conference Spotlights Trade Show Industry Trends

Marlene Goldman, Executive Editor

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Trending topics in the events industry, from employee retention to diversity and inclusion (DE&I), took center stage at the 31st ESCA Summer Educational Conference, held June 26 – 29 at The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.

ESCA (Exhibition Services & Contractors Association) designed its annual conference, which took place for the first time in three years, with a focus on interactive panels, exhibits and networking events as well as events industry specific educational opportunities.

Top trade show industry presenters included Kai Hattendorf, Managing Director and CEO at UFI – The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, who held the session Exhibition and Event Industry Trends: How They will Shape the Future of Your Business. He focused on the business of events, such as attendee expectations, sustainability, and organizer/supplier relationships. Bob Ryley, GES, ESCA President, also touched on trade show industry trends in his closing remarks at the conference.

Nancy Drapeau, Vice President of Research at CEIR – Center for Exhibition Industry Research, presented the session, Rapid Fire Update: State of the US B2B Exhibition Industry. She referenced CEIR research on how the trade show industry is faring today and the outlook through 2024, as well as identifying trends likely to impact the event industry moving forward.

One of the spotlight sessions, From Capitol Hill to the Show Floor; How Advocacy Is Supporting the Industry’s Road to Recovery, was presented by Trade Show Executive Vice President and Editor in Chief Gabrielle Weiss, along with David Dubois, President and CEO of IAEE, and Tommy Goodwin, Vice President of ECA (Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance).

The panel took a deep dive into the advocacy work ESCA members and the events industry have been focusing on to ensure policy makers understand the critical role face-to-face events and the trade show industry play in economic growth, namely this year’s Legislative Action Week, which took place in June and was organized by ECA.

“Engaging with our elected officials puts jet fuel in the engine for ECA’s efforts,” Weiss said. “Advocacy is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it really does need to be part of our business models going forward. It’s a line item.”

Related. Legislative Action Week: “Never Has This Event Been So Important”

The panel looked at ECA’s key priorities during Legislative Action Week, including the passage by the Senate of two bills, one for relief for small businesses and the other for the restoration of the Employee Retention Tax Credit, and the return of communicable disease coverage as part of event cancellation insurance. Some questions posed during the session included what elements of the bills would impact ESCA members and what elements would assist in growing back trade show business.

Diversity and inclusion was also a hot topic. This year’s event keynote speaker set the tone, as Risha Grant, an internationally renowned DE&I and bias expert held an interactive session, Get Rid of the BS & Build Inclusive Culture. During the session, Grant engaged event attendees by letting them express their biases and then offering tools on how to overcome those.

Another panel of ESCA members, Promoting Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace, focused on recruiting strategies for building a diverse workforce, workforce strategies to improve morale and inclusivity, and retention strategies to keep star players. It also addressed how to improve diversity and inclusion in trade show businesses and ESCA.

During the session Employee Attraction & Retention, human resources experts from Employco USA offered tips and guidance to parse the legal landscape on hiring. They addressed best practices related to finding suitable job candidates, interviewing techniques, as well as effective new hire onboarding and legal compliance issues. Some of the issues regarding employee retention were also a focus of the panel, which offered advice on methods to improve employee engagement and job satisfaction, and legal requirements for employment terminations.

Other panels included Legal Updates in the Events World, and another focused on the Impact of COVID-19 on Young Professionals and how the pandemic is affecting the next generation of trade show industry workers.

ESCA Executive Director Larry Arnaudet noted he had received many comments from the more than 180 attendees, emphasizing that this was the most enjoyable ESCA Summer Conference they had ever attended. “This outstanding feedback will greatly assist in developing plans for our future events.”

Arnaudet added, “Next up on the horizon is our 2022 Winter Awards Celebration and Reception, Dec. 11, in Louisville, Ky., followed by our 2023 ESCA Summer Educational Conference, June 25-28 at Hotel Effie in Sandestin, Fla.

Reach Larry Arnaudet at; Gabrielle Weiss at (312) 493-7753 or

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