Tuesday, June 9th was Exhibition Day on Capitol Hill here in Washington, DC, and for the second year in a row IAEE organized a fantastic day of meeting face-to-face with members of Congress to raise awareness for the “Exhibitions Mean Business” campaign and address key legislative issues affecting our industry.
As one of more than 100 representatives for events, venues and supplier companies, I stormed the Hill last week with a group of four other folks from Virginia. Over the course of the day we buzzed back and forth between offices meeting with several Members of Congress and/or their staff.
This year, our campaign was focused on 4 primary topics:
- Passage of H.R. 1401 – the JOLT Act
- Support for Open Skies agreements
- Support for Trade Promotion Authority
- Advocating the importance of supporting government attendance at exhibitions
In our conversations with Members of Congress, my group and I relayed the important role that provisions like the JOLT Act and Open Skies Agreements play in promoting international travel and commerce and how important it is to our industry that these kind of arrangements remain in place. Because it never hurts to mention the bottom line, we also made the point that the Events & Exhibitions industry added over $71 billion to the GDP in 2014, and that issues that impact our market have a major impact on jobs and businesses across the country.
As event professionals, of course, we’re all well aware of the power of face-to-face communication but statistics on the effectiveness of this kind of advocacy make it crystal clear. Members of Congress consistently rate this kind of personal communication with constituents as having the highest influence on the way they make decisions on issues, and that really comes across in these meetings. Everyone I spoke to was extremely focused, engaged and interested in understanding our needs and concerns.
I have to say that seeing this process in action is an amazing experience – I guess I never really believed that one person, or even a hundred, could have any impact at all on the decisions that get made in our government, but that’s exactly what happens.
And I come away from the experience believing that we did make a difference. Maybe a small one, but an important one, nonetheless. The key is to keep it up, and I hope that you’ll all join us next year and add your voice.
Rob Hamlin, Director of Exhibition Solutions | Ungerboeck Systems International
This was my first experience with Exhibitions Day, but it won’t be my last. I found the overall experience to be very valuable in the following ways:
- I learned a lot more about the issues that are most important to our industry. I knew a little about each one, but I didn’t understand the full potential impact of each.
- I found the approach/process to be very interesting relative to the “ask” of each congress person. Clearly they want to know what you want from them and at the same time understand how that relates to their position on the matter. I found it interesting that some members were eager to openly and proactively support certain issues where as others were supportive but not willing to openly sponsor.
- It was interesting that of the 6 offices I met with only one member was in the meeting. Roger did warn us about this and not to be disappointed about it, but I was expecting more than 1 in 6.
- It’s always nice to see old faces and meet new, and this opportunity gave me the chance to do both in a setting other than a reception or a show floor.
- I believe that we were heard, and that our valuable time did not go to waste. If I am not traveling, you can count me in every time.
The Good and Opportunities to Improve:
- The organizing team did a great job in preparing us to meet with the members. In fact it may be a little overkill in that regard. In the meetings everyone wants to get straight to the point, and I think a one page brief on each issue should suffice.
- There were as many as 10 people in my Maryland group in some meetings. I think there is an opportunity to divide and concur to reach more members. I’m guessing there are some states we didn’t make it to (my home state NM for example) yet each state has 2 senators and all the votes count equally.
Jeff Fugate, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing | Experient