Event suppliers association looks to build conference membership

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The next chair of the Event Services Supplier Association (ESSA) has flagged more conference industry visibility as a key element of his strategy. In an exclusive interview with Exhibition News, John Robson, who is also the MD of Aztec Event Services, said the association needed to build its services and membership base further in the conference market. He pointed out his own supplier organisation, as well as many of ESSA’s members, already ran conference businesses that were not being represented adequately at an association level. “Although our name is the ‘event’ supplier association, most of our work is focused on exhibitions,” he said. “As an association, I want to attract more members from the conference sector by giving them reasons for engaging with us.”Robson claimed the conference association landscape was quite fragmented, making it difficult for suppliers to build a consistent message.“There are a number of organisations that would claim they support conference operators. But they tend not to split in the same neatly, segmented way as we are with organisers, venues and contractors and suppliers,” he explained. “They tend to be an association that represents people working generally in the conference sector. “When you talk to a lot of our members, you will find they do also operate in the conference sector, but they don’t really have representation with conference organisers. What I would hope to do is start attracting more service providers, as opposed to just contractors, to start engaging with conference organisers as well.”Robson pointed out many members of its sister group, the Association of Event Organisers, also maintained significant conference arms and highlighted Haymarket and Centaur as examples. Exhibition venues also fit the bill.“There is a lot of synergy, but I don’t think we communicate that particularly well or organise ourselves to engage with that sector well,” Robson said. ESSA was now working on tools and packages to help drive engagement in the conference market, he said. Robson was announced as the next chair of ESSA last January 2010. He will assume the role when current chair, Steve Barratt, steps down at the end of this year. Check out the extended interview with John Robson in EN’s November edition.
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