In early June, Exhibitions Day, the collaborative effort between the exhibitions and events industry, was held in Washington DC, drawing 125 attendees who spoke with elected officials on Capital Hill about several industry issues impacting the events industry. The International Association of Exhibitions and Events™ (IAEE) and the Exhibitions Mean Business Campaign collaborated with 20 industry organizations in this industry-wide effort now in its fifth year.
The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), exhibitions and events reported that the industry now contributes about $91 billion to the U.S. GDP. The active members of IAEE felt it was critically important to meet with and educate government officials about how to improve the industry, and work together for the betterment of this business channel.
“The ability to conduct business, whether in boardrooms or at a tradeshow, is vital to the health of our country, our businesses and is a critical element to achieving our economic goals,” said Tim Heffernan, chief development officer, T3 Expo. “We focused our conversation on the Hill to what Congress can do to help support our industry as a driver of economic growth– topics like how to grow our international attendance and attract businesses to the US. We also discussed what they could do to protect our industry by improving the physical security of the events industry and keeping attendees safe.”
Over the years, mass shootings, terrorism and bomb scares have taken a significant toll upon our society and instilled fear in many attendees when gathering at large venues –whether it is for a movie, a conference, a sporting event or a concert.
“Setting better policy, national standards and allocating funds that will provide safeguards, better security and better preparedness for the industry overall is critical,” said Heffernan. “We fully support the idea of enhancing safety and security measures, but this will take money, resources and an active dialogue from many parties, including Congress."
T3 Expo, IAEE and its members have all been in discussions focused on increasing the physical security at events. The groups have been aligned with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop the Exhibitions and Meetings Safety and Security Initiative (EMSSI), which align convention center security guidelines with federal programs and the Department of Homeland Security/Safety Act Office. This initiative will produce a comprehensive security benchmark helping create safer and more secure large-scale events.
Nearly 60 organizations, including over 25 convention centers are already supporting this measure. Once the EMSSI initiative is completed, it will have hundreds of convention centers requesting certification from the DHS SAFETY Act Office, and that will require a significant amount of resources. It will take time, money and resources – and it can’t happen fast enough.
“We need to step up venue security to provide immediate resources and funding. We need to look at investments canine units for bomb threats, additional security around the perimeter and inside the events, and implementing metal detectors for other possible threats. Consumers are used to having bags scanned,” said Heffernan, "we don’t see this as any inconvenience, but as an assurance that our attendees are safe.”
And, given the trends, DHS has recently announced that it has redoubled its efforts, to focus on the DHS Soft Target and Crowded Places Security Plan Overview. The overview describes how the Department is working to enhance and organize its efforts around the security and resilience of soft targets such as events, and crowded places across the country.
The plan outlines several DHS initiatives that will leverage capabilities from across the Department to build the foundation for the future. These efforts, according to the DHS, include:
Enhancing a culture of awareness through a major education and awareness campaign;
Engaging with key international partners to share best practices and lessons learned;
Increasing awareness of and access to resources;
Focusing and incentivizing investments in soft target and crowded places security; and
Focusing research and development on soft target-crowded places security.
"T3 Expo looks forward to working with IAEE, DHS and many others to enhance our private public partnership. Together as an industry we can ensure all our events, attendees and venues remain safe and enjoyable so that we can continue to do business as usual," Heffernan added.