We’re all very familiar with ourselves; we’re accustomed to seeing ourselves in the mirror every day and we immediately notice if anything is awry, whether it’s spinach stuck in our teeth or a huge pimple on the end of our nose.
Holding up a mirror to a company or an organisation like ESSA is a different proposition altogether.
We need to look in hundreds of directions simultaneously and somehow combine each little reflection into an overall picture.
From ESSA’s perspective, we are our members and for the association to see and understand itself, it needs to know the membership, the issues it faces and what it wants and needs most from us.
Two years ago ESSA conducted its third comprehensive member survey using an online questionnaire and follow-up telephone interviews. The results from both our previous membership surveys have played an important role in defining ESSA’s strategy and shaping the changes we have made to our member services and benefits over the years.
The results of the last research exercise indicated, for example, that our members wanted to put their own business growth first and foremost among the association’s priorities.
We wasted no time in acting on this information and rebooted our ‘Use An ESSA Member Campaign’, coordinating a print and digital campaign targeted at exhibitors. We also supported the very successful FaceTime Exhibitor Masterclasses, and used them as a platform to reach exhibitors face-to-face and deliver our message of reliability and quality assurance.
Simultaneously, we approached and lobbied some of the largest organisers to recommend using ESSA members in their exhibitor handbooks with gratifyingly good results.
It’s a challenge to impress upon our members the importance of these research exercises, and one of the most difficult tasks is securing a meaningful number of respondents.
It’s not difficult to understand why – like any industry, event and exhibition businesses have a hierarchy of needs and priorities, plenty of which outweigh the importance of a survey from their trade association. We need to know about the pressures and challenges that our member businesses face day-to-day, and the membership survey is the quickest and most efficient way to collect and collate that information.
We are now mid-way through the third survey of our membership, and by early next year we will have the results. This research has been masterminded by the ESSA Strategy Sub Group, comprised of senior staff from a range of ESSA member businesses, including suppliers of furniture, signage, stand design and build as well as full service suppliers.
We’ll be using the opportunity of the G50+Conference this month to emphasise the importance of completing this survey to all members in attendance. This event is itself a valuable opportunity for members to give us feedback in person, but not everyone can make it to the G50+Conference, or our AGM, making this survey a vital tool in understanding exactly what they need from ESSA.
The survey is both a time and cost-effective method for members to directly influence ESSA’s package of services and benefits. The surveys have allowed us to monitor our own performance as judged by our members, and change our offering accordingly. With such a wide variety of business sectors represented by our members finding the sweet spot of maximum benefit or service to all our members is a constant challenge.
Of course, we encourage our members to talk to us at any time, and every week we receive requests for help and information to deal with their individual issues, but by taking a snapshot of the membership’s collective concerns and needs we’re able to prioritise our actions to benefit everyone.
This article was first published in the December issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne