As the association has gone from strength to strength over the last 10 years, Andrew Harrison, ESSA director talks achievements, expertise and knowledge.
It’s tempting, at the start of our 10th anniversary year, to look back and regale you with a big long list of our achievements since 2007. It would be a long list, certainly, but it wouldn’t convey what we’ve really achieved in our first decade.
More than anything, I want our 10th anniversary to be the year we acknowledge how far we’ve come since the merger of BECA and AEC, and to use the anniversary as an opportunity to direct our collective gaze forwards, to how we approach the next decade and what it will bring to our industry.
2007 was the year that it became apparent that the world was on the brink of a financial and banking crisis, and it didn’t seem like the most auspicious moment to start a new trade association in the UK. The brakes were being put on growth, lending dried up and many businesses up and down the country found they had hit the buffers.
We were very fortunate in the commitment we received from former AEC and BECA staff and board members in that crucial first year, and it’s thanks to them that we found our feet so quickly. By the end of the first year we had managed to make the front page of Exhibition News, and we had hammered out our key objectives and ambitions for the association and its 200+ members.
Our primary aim was, and still is, to achieve parity of voice, a kitemark for the industry and to support our members’ growth and the growth of the industry. The last decade has seen us gradually getting a seat at more and more tables, incrementally raising our influence in the places where it matters. Whether it’s through our international links with associations like IFES, proactively pursuing representation at legislative and regulatory levels, or our members’ membership of groups, panels and forums, we’ve climbed a mountain since 2007, but there is still plenty of climbing to do.
The benefits from our gains in representation are difficult to quantify exactly, but we’re increasingly being asked for our view, instead of clamouring to be heard, by government, quangos, the media, other associations and allied industries.
The Use an ESSA Member (UAEM) campaign has also gone from strength to strength over the years, and is now finding its way independently into the minds of exhibitors and event organisers alike. Of course, we’ve campaigned hard for this and it now has the momentum to go beyond our immediate target audience.
From the outset, the association wanted to be a kitemark for events and exhibitions, and building this perception in the minds of all of our members’ clients has been achieved through support for organisations like FaceTime and a constant reiteration of the safeguards and guarantees that come with using an ESSA member. Again, it’s a mountain to climb and we’re not at the top yet, but looking back at the past decade, we have come so far that it’s hard not to indulge in some self-congratulation.
As we start our 10th year, I’m mindful of the challenges ahead as much as I am looking forward to what we have planned for the future. Our campaigns and initiatives need to be strengthened and extended and we’ll be taking a close look at the changing needs of our members to provide them with the tools and member benefits that are relevant and useful to them.
We’ve started investing in e-learning resources for our members and we’re focusing on introducing a new generation of event and exhibition professionals into the industry through support for apprenticeship schemes, agreements with colleges and universities and virtual learning opportunities.
With 11 AGMs, nine golf days, nearly 100 working group meetings, nine annual conferences and many roadshows under our belt, the last decade has seen us go from a standing start to a mature, well-established and respected trade association with the ear of the industry where it matters.
And of course, we are nothing without you and all our members who volunteer their time, expertise and knowledge to create an industry that is better for everyone.