Economic hard times in an increasingly global marketplace will be the proving ground for trade bodies. ESSA’s Chris Skeith reports on the changing face of the association’s services to members.
A combination of factors such as economic, market conditions and business expansion has seen an increased call upon the services of the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA) to support its members as they extend their reach overseas and into new areas of business.
Domestic markets have witnessed a greater focus on increasingly technical issues and driving efficiencies in business practice. And, as the expectations of members increase and the needs of the industry become more complex it is, I believe, in this demanding environment that industry bodies will have to prove their worth.
We are seeing a greater number of members requesting support of ESSA, not because they are experiencing more issues than before, but as they extend the reach of their businesses, their resources and expertise are being deployed elsewhere. As a result, therefore, they are seeking external support from their trade bodies to help bridge the gap by providing a network of people, knowledge, guidance and best practice.
In turn, this applies positive pressure to the association to develop and deploy suitable resources and materials and to prioritise them in the best combination of benefit versus effort. Association resources are not infinite, which means we are seeking creative ways to help and support members and most importantly, ensure we effectively share this support widely and quickly.
A notable success has been the members helping one another by tapping into one another’s areas of specialist knowledge. One example that springs to mind is an international freight query where a non-exhibition freight forwarder had not fully understood that the delivery of a consignment of exhibition stand materials was incredibly time-sensitive and needed to be treated very differently to one containing household furniture. Without the container of exhibition stand materials, there’s no stand.
In this case the client got a stand but not the one they expected. By connecting expertise within the association’s membership, and the member in need of support, it was possible to help them ensure they were able to provide a robust case back to their client. They were also able to develop their paperwork trail to learn from the experience and identify a partner network to help ensure it did not happen again. This network of support is only possible with the engagement and commitment of member companies and levels of engagement are increasing year-on-year.
Another mechanism employed is the linkage between ESSA, the Association of Event Venues (AEV) and the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) on a number of appropriate working groups and technical committees tackling matters of common interest. This process facilitates debate and allows stakeholder groups to engage and develop workable industry solutions at a pace dictated and needed by them.
As the year progresses, the effective trade bodies will be able to clearly demonstrate the tangible value of membership. They will be the ones exiting the economic downturn in a strong and viable position ready to support their members as they also exit the recession.
– Chris Skeith is co-director of ESSA and the AEV.