Leo Speck, Aztec Event Services sales director, reflects on the growth of ESSA’s membership through its AGM and events.
I’ve been attending the ESSA AGM every year since its inception, and to begin with it was a pretty subdued affair, fulfilling the bureaucratic necessities of the association along with some networking and catching up with industry colleagues.
In many ways, attending the AGM can be a bit of a hard sell, and ESSA members might still be under the impression that it’s a dry affair with little to interest them. While that might have been true five or six years ago, today it’s quite a different story.
Today’s AGMs are managing to pack more content in, along with the chance to meet and catch up with peers, competitors and even clients. Of course my MD, John Robson, is currently the association treasurer and former chairman, Aztec always offers to provide the AV support and so I can’t claim my attendance is purely motivated by my love for the association, but all other things being equal, I would still make the time to attend.
For me, there are two main things that make the AGM an unmissable event. Firstly, it’s really essential to find out where the members’ money has gone! ESSA delivers a surprising number of member benefits for its annual fee, from helplines and legal services to the ESSA bond, and often the first announcement of any new scheme or benefit will be made at the AGM. Resources ESSA has expended on behalf of its members are accounted for at the meeting, and the various board members responsible bring us up to date on ESSA initiatives and investments.
Through the AGM, and the G50+ Conference as well, ESSA helps us to define the strategic direction of the industry, bringing together the voices of its members to bear on fundamental strategic issues like changes to legislation and new regulatory frameworks, as well as keeping abreast of the trends and over-the-horizon developments that affect the event industry.
What I have noticed is that, over the years, ESSA’s membership has broadened from being mostly traditional suppliers like stand builders and graphics and a couple of technical services companies like Aztec, to now including independent ops teams and other facilitator businesses. This has led to an increase in the recognition of ESSA in the wider events industry and reinforcing it as a mark of quality and reliability.
ESSA members who only attend one association event a year tend to focus on the G50+ Conference because it promises a whole day full of engaging content but one that’s light on the admin.
The networking and discussion at the AGM is always more tightly focused than the G50, due in part to the time pressure, but also because of the content, being orientated much more around ESSA itself.
The strength of the G50+ is its mission to broaden debate and engagement with more diverse topics.
This year’s AGM even attracted some of ESSA’s international members, which I think demonstrates just how important it is, and how influential it is seen to be from outside the UK event community.
Speaking as an ordinary member of the association, I would really like to see more members attending the AGM, and I’m convinced that we’d see a significant uplift in the number of members taking advantage of the considerable member benefits on offer.
ESSA tries hard to communicate these benefits, but like so many members fighting their inboxes, these messages can get lost in maelstrom.
But coming to the AGM and listening to other members extolling the virtues of discounted member benefits or capitalising upon the ESSA helplines, really drives that message home.