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IAEE Holds First Virtual Exhibitions Day; Importance of Advocacy in U.S. Takes Center Stage

TSE Staff

DALLAS — On June 3, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) held its Exhibitions Day event online for the first time in seven years due to social distancing concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, which had 625 attendees, stressed the importance of advocacy to raise awareness about the impact of the industry as professionals navigate their way through a post-COVID world.

“Exhibitions Day was a sounding board for the industry to come together and show support for getting back to the business of live events. We reassured industry professionals of many months of integral advocacy work we have been engaged in and will continue to engage in,” said IAEE President and CEO, David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA. “From our collaborations with Destinations International, and Go Live Together to our Essential Considerations for Reopening Exhibitions & Events with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council and industry partners, IAEE’s advocacy arm has been working around the clock to bring resources and next steps to the industry.”

Related. IAEE Publishes Expert-Driven White Paper for Reopening Trade Shows and Exhibitions in a Post-Pandemic Era

The main areas of advocacy this year focused on issues related to recovery. They included supporting an incentives-based program for a safe restart of the exhibitions and events industry, extending and enhancing the CARES Act, liability issues and the support of community-based economic recovery through grants. More here:

After an initial, participants could choose from different and relevant sessions. Here they could connect, network and learn. One of the resources that Exhibitions Day offered to outline next steps for advocacy was a breakout session called “Ask the Advocacy Expert,” where Roger Rickard, Founder and President of Voices in Advocacy, facilitated a discussion on how professionals can use advocacy to help defend and protect exhibitions, meetings, and events. Some of the advocacy ideas mentioned were using social media to connect with politicians, making calls to lawmakers’ district and Washington offices, and sending letters via email to representatives. Rickard also shared information on how professionals can easily locate who their representatives are and where to contact them, as well as templates that can be used to craft their missives.

Related. This Exhibitions Means Business Advocacy Toolkit lets you download letter, templates and guides:

According to Rickard, the session was an excellent opportunity for attendees to get a glimpse of how the advocacy process works so they can take action—and get results.

“In the ‘Ask the Advocacy Expert’ room, people wanted to make sure that the action they were undertaking was done properly so that they would be even more effective and influential advocates,” he said. “It allowed me to clearly articulate the key talking points within the issues. And of course, try to better explain the political ‘sausage making’ in how Congress negotiates legislative bill development.”

Some sessions focused on other industry areas of concern. Led by Mariela McIlwraith, Director of Industry Advancement at the Events Industry Council, the “Sustainability in Events” breakout session allowed participants to share strategies for making their events more environmentally friendly. This included ways to reduce food waste and find uses for leftover items like show banners. McIlwraith noted that making even small changes can have far-reaching effects on the environment.

“With the decisions that you make for your events, the impact is significantly more than the impact that may happen over the course of your entire life from your own individual choices,” she explained. “If you stop and make sure that you’re making good and responsible choices, you can really amplify the good.”

While the online environment was different from what Exhibitions Day attendees are accustomed to, it allowed members of the industry to come together to discuss the issues that matter most to them and share ideas on how to move forward as restrictions for events are loosened around the world.

“Because Exhibitions Day was a virtual event this year, the expanded participation in advocacy was refreshing to see in our ecosystem,” said Mark Bogdansky, Vice President of Meetings and Events, Auto Care Association. “As an IAEE member and Chair of the Advocacy Committee, Exhibitions Day was a true rallying point for the U.S. exhibitions industry and attendees gave good feedback during the networking sessions on what their pain points are and what they want to see from IAEE’s advocacy efforts in the future.”

Reach David DuBois at (972) 458-8002 or

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