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Expo Association Alphabet Soup: Connecting the world through awareness

I have just returned from a speaking engagement for the 2014 World Meeting Forum/World Tradeshow Forum in Cancun, Mexico. As a representative of IFES, I spoke to the differences when doing tradeshow marketing from one country to the next.

One of the keynote speakers was Karen Jacobsen. You probably do not recognize her name, but you sure would recognize her voice. She is the voice of GPS. Her presentation, “Recalculating,” emphasized the importance of ‘recalculating’ when driving off the road map in your business.

International tradeshow marketing is quickly pushing all expo segments to recalculate their strategies. One of the sessions was a roundtable discussion with global industry association CEO’s. The question was asked, “What are the two major concerns when industry associations look to collaborate on a global scale?” David DuBois, president and CEO, IAEE, replied “Standardization and the concept of ‘Meetings mean Business’.”

World Meetings Forum 2014

World Meetings Forum 2014

The meeting was well attended by many Latin American associations as well as world associations in the meeting and tradeshow sector. The purpose of WMF/WTSF 2014 was to exchange ideas and trends with other expo associations and expo industry leaders within the worldwide MICE industry. The WMF/WTSF also encourages its association leaders to simultaneously conduct their own association meetings in conjunction with WMF/WTSF, especially for those with international locations.

When I was a member of the Convention Liaison Council (CLC) in 1989, it was reported that there were 22 expo related associations in North America. I suspect that there are over 100 more similar associations throughout the world. Each of the associations that I spoke with at this meeting clearly sees their niche in the big picture as valuable. So valuable that they have created associations made up of dedicated companies focused on the unique services they provide. The truth of the matter is that no one industry segment alone fully represents the full breadth of what the exposition industry represents as a whole. Two specific associations that attended were UFI and CLC. Both are umbrella associations whose members are made up of other industry related associations.

Confusing? Not really. As the world of meetings and conventions join closer together each year, each expo industry association groups must now integrate with each other to collectively support the full strength and power of face-to-face marketing globally. This is what the main mission of WMF/WTSF is all about. Whether it’s a meeting or a tradeshow, the powers of face-to-face marketing must be shared and the value of the specialized association groups within must be understood.

The world is getting smaller and the markets are growing bigger. Our awareness of the different exhibit and meeting industry associations is key to reaching global unity and understanding. Measuring the effects of our efforts is critical to provide information and services to benefit partners and end users. Many associations are beginning to measure and expand their reach with the services they offer, and thus overlap their services with other association services.

As marketing experts, we cannot be members to all of these groups, so consolidation can be good to get dual benefits from membership to a single association. Consolidation will happen and will be driven by the membership interests for other ancillary services. There will always be unique differences when doing tradeshows in other countries. With that said, there should always be a global group and a local group representing similar interests. The geographical location of our customer’s tradeshows and meeting on the world market stage will always shift. Being prepared to assist our clients with local knowledge is critical to our value as world meeting associations and as consultants to end user customers.

There is no need to consolidate all world associations as one, but not a bad idea to share best practices and create global certification programs that are mutually relevant and of a common concern. Sharing info between associations in areas like sustainability, safety, and exhibit/meeting space layouts, and regulations are good starters. Small steps are better than no steps. As the location of shows and meetings continue to shift, being prepared and ready to serve is key.

The World Meeting Forum is not suggesting that one association is better or stronger than the other. They simply want dialog between all world associations, resulting in better ideas that strengthen the power of face-to-face marketing on a global scale for the end users.

So, as the letters of the association alphabet (in many different languages) exist to represent the world of face-to-face marketing, let’s be mindful to integrate the best expo business practices that pave the way for sharing unified global meeting practices that make it easier to adapt for success when participating in global meetings and events.

Think global, act local. There is no right way, there is no wrong way; there is only a different way. In this case, a different way that can work for all who participate in the meeting and expo experience globally.

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Posted in International, World
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