This Just In

Tommy Goodwin, ECA’s VP of Government Affairs, Advocates for the Industry

Andrea Doyle, Executive Editor
Tommy Goodwin, VP Government Affairs at ECA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance (ECA), a newly formed advocacy group, is dedicated to the recovery and advancement of the face-to-face business events industry. Its mission is to help government officials understand the important role these events have on economies and job creation.

Government relations and advocacy leader Tommy Goodwin is the ECA’s new Vice President, Government Affairs. He is tasked with helping the group increase awareness of live business events’ impact on economies and job creation among policymakers while advocating for the industry’s common interests in order to maintain a favorable operating environment within the United States.

Goodwin brings more than 20 years of experience leading a wide range of government relations, public affairs and issue advocacy efforts for several globally recognized associations and corporations, including Oracle Corp., AARP and the Project Management Institute (PMI). Additionally, he was a research fellow at Harvard Business School focused on the international political and legal environment in which business operates.

Recognized by The Hill in its 2020 list of association “Top Lobbyists,” Goodwin has a B.B.A. from The George Washington University, an M.B.A. from Auburn University, and a postgraduate diploma in European Union Law from King’s College London. He also holds a Certified Association Executive designation from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and a Project Management Professional certification from PMI. He currently serves as president of the National Institute of Lobbying & Ethics and the immediate past chair of ASAE’s Government Relations and Advocacy Professionals Advisory Council.

Trade Show Executive had the opportunity to sit down with Goodwin – albeit virtually – and here are the highlight of our conversation.

In February, you were named vice president of government affairs for the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance (ECA). What attracted you to this organization?

Through my affiliation with ASAE, I got to know other organizations in the broader business events space: BestCities, ICCA, IMEX, and PCMA and speak at some of their conferences. I got to know a little bit about the business events space, and the many great people in it.

Along with being an advocate and lobbyist, I also love helping build and shape association advocacy programs

Over the last 10 years or so, I have been involved in helping establish, grow, reshape, and scale programs like AARP, LeadingAge and PMI.

Within that context, ECA looked like a great opportunity to help build a great organization with a great mission supporting great people throughout the industry, and that’s a home run to me.

You are going to help execute the group’s mission, to increase awareness of live business events’ impact on economies and job creation among policymakers. Can you explain?

The trade show industry may be the biggest and best industry that people don’t think about, but they should. The stats are telling.


  • 6 million jobs across the country rely on live events
  • $396 billion in direct spending
  • 7 million exhibitors, 80% of which are small businesses
  • 99% of business events companies have less than 500 employees; 90% have less than 20


  • 9,400 exhibitions nationwide
  • $101 billion in total impact on GDP in 2019


And that all disappeared overnight last March.

In Washington, DC and nationwide, not only have we have been telling the story of the devastation that the industry has suffered over the last year to policymakers, but we are also talking about what is missing in their local communities without business events.

  • $55 billion in hotel spending
  • $32 billion in airline spending
  • $30 billion in restaurants and retail spending
  • $29 billion in ground transportation spending
  • $130 billion in total taxes ($51 billion federal; $79 state and local)
  • Nearly $1 trilling in lost value created at business events

That’s why we are asking them to help, whether that’s supporting safe reopening in states and cities nationwide or championing incentives on Capitol Hill to get attendees and exhibitors back to face-to-face events.

What surprised you most about the trade show industry?

I have been most struck by two things…

First, it’s clear that small businesses are really the backbone of the business events ecosystem

  • 99% of business events companies have fewer than 500 employees
  • 80% of the 1.7 million exhibiting companies are small businesses

Second, I have been struck by the sheer size of jobs nationwide supported by the business events industry: more than 6.6 million jobs. That’s why bringing back exhibitions and conferences is critical to restarting a large sector of the economy and getting Americans back to work.

What makes trade shows so important?

Sometimes, you don’t realize what you are missing until it is gone. Think about what is missing without trade shows, exhibitions, and conferences

  • Missed connections
  • Fewer new product launches
  • Less innovation
  • No business growth

And it goes on… missed leads, no access to decision makers, difficulty identifying new partners, lost press coverage, etc.

Everybody loves Shark Tank, right? Every one of those 9,400 exhibitions nationwide each year is a mini-Shark Tank in and of itself!

Face-to-face business events are all about buyers, sellers, investors, and potential partners, coming together to support consumers and every major industry you can think of.

And, for small businesses, 46% of them are losing one of their main sales channels that help keep them afloat

If you are a small craft-maker, it’s one thing to create an Etsy storefront and cross your fingers…It’s another to exhibit at a show where you see 5K-10K interested buyers in three days.

Related. ECA Legislative Action Day to Focus on Passage of the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act. 

Reach Tommy Goodwin at (703) 672-0780 or

Want to get involved? Sign up to be part of the 2021 Legislative Action Day.











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