Celebrating the coalitions of the willing

As I prepared for IMEX Frankfurt back in May, I revisited my notes from last year’s edition. Back then, I shared an observation from the Policy Forum there that, when asked what was holding our industry back, many had criticised ‘egos’ as a core element for this. What a difference a year can make, as we could celebrate some real collaboration achievements across the events sector. 

April saw a breakthrough in the ongoing advocacy work. We could hold a one-day ‘EU Dialogue’ event between the events industry and European policymakers in Brussels. This was an official event within the Belgium EU Presidency. Praised by everyone in attendance, I hope this event will only be the starting point for more of this coordinated dialogue with European leaders.

This success did not ‘fall from the sky’, and UFI and our continuous advocacy work have played a part here. UFI has been one of the driving forces of industry advocacy in Brussels, with the legacy of 12 years of the European Exhibition Industry Alliance (EEIA), our Brussels collaboration between UFI and EMECA. The EEIA, led by Barbara Weizsäcker, has previously hosted smaller events like this, focusing on our exhibition industry and establishing excellent contacts in the political ecosystem.

For almost two years now, the EEIA has also shared an office in Brussels with the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) – the global umbrella organisation for the whole events sector. UFI sits on the board of this supra body (my seven years on the board ended in Frankfurt, while our COO Adeline Vancauwelaert has been elected to the board instead). One of the core purposes of JMIC is global industry advocacy, with the JMIC Industry Manifesto providing – for the first time ever – a holistic, joint, positive industry narrative for the whole events sector. (Please take a look at the document at: https:// www.themeetingsindustry.org/ wp-content/uploads/JMIC_Industry- Manifesto_2nd-Edition.pdf). JMIC and EEIA also worked with CityDNA and Visit Brussels to make the EU Dialogue happen.

The point here is that, within and outside of our exhibition industry, patience and persistence pay off, and collaboration and ‘coalitions of the willing’ are key to progress around complex issues like advocacy. For UFI, this means we achieve the most when we are willing to initially take the lead to develop an issue for our exhibition industry and then share our learnings and successes with the wider events industry for everyone’s benefit and progress. To achieve this, mid to long- term thinking holds as much a place in our daily work at UFI as the challenges of the day, the week, or the month.

Let me use this column to explicitly celebrate all the colleagues across the industry, in your businesses, as volunteer leaders in UFI and other organisations, and as team members who never lose sight of these longer-term issues! The best way for everyone to do this is to support them, which was done during 5 June which was this year’s Global Exhibitions Day. All you need to know for #GED2025, is just a click away at globalexhibitionsday.