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Chris Skeith: The only way is through

by Chris Skeith

Chief executive officer of the Association of Events Organisers Chris Skeith OBE says the need to recognise the economic impact of business events is as strong as ever and looks at how the AEO will navigate its way through the key challenges of 2022. 

While the impact of Covid-19 and the restrictions it carried was a bitter pill to swallow for the events industry, it accelerated action on important areas that had historically been slow to progress.
Together with AEV and ESSA, we positioned public affairs, diversity and inclusion and sustainability at the top of our agenda.

Public affairs
Thrust into a pandemic, I spoke with ministers almost every day for two years, on behalf of the industry. As we entered 2022, the need to keep building on those relationships, to safeguard business events in the future and ensure our economic impact was recognised, so we’d never be left behind again was evident.
We commissioned a top flight public affairs agency to support us in elevating the industry’s profile and relevance with government officials, ministers, and the opposition to show that our industry drives trade in every sector, every part of the UK and the world.
Having visited a number of member shows in recent weeks and witnessing the halls come alive with exhibitors and visitors, reports of soaring demand and commitments to book in for the next show, business events are back with a vengeance.

Diversity and inclusion
Gone are the times of complacency. We are passionate about progressing the D&I agenda to ensure our industry is more welcoming, and in turn, competitively positioned against other sectors.
As the industry addresses the acute talent crisis, there is an opportunity to rethink the ways we attract talent, to better reflect the societies we serve.
March saw our D&I efforts shortlisted for an EN Award, and April saw the launch of the Five Pillars of Inclusion framework and supporting videos, designed to guide event businesses in implementing a good level of D&I.
Through the D&I cross association working group, we look forward to hearing how the pillars are being implemented.

The Race to Net Zero is on. Sustainability must be part of our thinking in every aspect of our business, and while we continue to encourage our members to use the sustainability commitments framework to guide them, we are looking forward to the learnings from the KBB Birmingham pilot project to measure the carbon footprint of a large UK event.

Signs of recovery
Just six months ago wearing masks and mass testing was the norm, not to mention the omicron variant to contend with. We’ve come leaps and bounds since then.
While it’s not yet time to breathe a sigh of relief as organisers, venues and suppliers grapple with increased costs, bookings landing later, and thinly spread resource, we must celebrate our progress.
With continued collaboration, and a few more bumps to get through, the future of this industry is truly bright. EN


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