Exhibitions Lobby Takes Capitol Hill

Participation increased 10 percent over last year

Exhibitions Mean Business Day

On June 7-8, the Exhibitions Mean Business (EMB) advocacy group hosted its third annual Exhibitions Day, flying industry stakeholders into Washington, D.C. to meet with their congressional representatives. Afterward, EMB leaders David Dubois, Julia Smith, and Roger Rickard sat down with Successful Meetings to review the industry's progress. Here are highlights from that conversation.

Successful Meetings: How successful was this year's Exhibitions Day?

Roger Rickard (founder of Voices in Advocacy and industry consultant): We were somewhere around a 10 percent increase over last year in the number of participants. 

Julia Smith (senior vice president, national sales of GES): In terms of rough numbers, I think over 100 meetings were scheduled between all the attendees. As you know, this was the third Exhibitions Day, but also this year, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) partnered to launch Global Exhibitions Day, which was wildly successful. 

David Dubois (president and CEO of the IAEE): Our goal six months ago as we started to plan was to have 30 countries participate. However, UFI, who was the project manager in collaboration with IAEE, reported that over 60 countries had either live activities or had social media activities. 

Next year [we expect that] what we do in the U.S. will be replicated elsewhere because we're going to encourage a lot more engagement as we share the video of what we do the last three years on Capitol Hill. They're going to see that our making calls on Capitol Hill, performing advocacy functions, and providing information to legislators, can work in any language, any country, any province, any city. 

Successful Meetings: Speaking of Capitol Hill, what are the reactions to the bills -- the Stop Online Booking Scams Act of 2016 (H.R. 4526) and the Protecting Workplace Advancement & Opportunity Act (Overtime Legislation, S.2707 & H.R. 4773) -- you're putting in front of the legislators?

RR: For the Stop Online Booking Scams Act, our call-to-action is to add cosponsors. I have received numerous emails from Exhibitions Day participants in which different congressional staffs wanted additional information. Staffers were saying, "Gee, someone else was here a couple of weeks ago with this issue." It was the America Hotel & Lodging coalition with which we had formed a coalition on this particular piece of legislation. And that is a great reminder that you can't rely on one group to "carry the water" in Washington. By having all of us collaborate on it, they get hit over and over again and think, "There's some steam behind this and I need to pay more attention to it."

The most important hurdle for us is on the Senate side, where there is currently not a companion bill. We know that Senator Bill Nelson [D-FL] is interested in being the main sponsor of that but he is looking for a Republican counterpart. I know of three states in which a Senator's office has indicated an interest in being that Republican co-sponsor. 

About the Protecting Workplace Advancement & Opportunity Act (Overtime Legislation, S.2707 & H.R. 4773), when you talk to a Republican Congressional office you get a lot of support; when you talk to Democratic offices, . . . it's kind of quiet.  

Successful Meetings: Does it have anything to do with an election year?

JS: After the conventions this summer, there's a long recess. And then, of course there are the elections. We're being told that there will be a lot of business done at the end of the year, as a result.

RR: The reality is, speaking out for what matters to you, when you know that it's going to influence your organization, is the right thing to do. And it's imperative that members of Congress get the heartbeat of their constituents. In a legislative fly-in, when constituents are flying into D.C. to meet with their representative's team, the team is not going to ignore them. That's like sparking a wildfire back home, when you ignore people. 

We're more concerned, even if we don't change hearts and minds about the overtime legislation, with making sure they understand our industry's "why. " 

First, the overtime regulation takes effect Dec. 1, and that's onerous for people who already have budgets set. Second, [the problem with the legislation is that] the Department of Labor has come up with is that's a one-size-fits-all solution: it doesn't matter where in the country you are, this is the rule. But if you were a federal employee, for example, your pay is set based on your geographic region; the same classification for a federal employee working in Birmingham, AL, is very different for a federal employee working in DC, San Francisco, or New York City. So we've asked them to consider that; and even if we don't change the hearts and minds, we may be able to go back and tweak it later on. 

DD: June 7, 2017, has already been inked in as the next year's Exhibitions Day and the Global collaboration on the same day, with our partners from UFI. We will continue to act what we call "glocal" and promote the advantages -- economic, cultural, and educational -- that happen because of trade shows around the world.