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SKEITH

One size doesn't fit all

Association of Event Organisers (AEO) CEO Chris Skeith looks at how broad the ‘E’ in ‘AEO’ really is

Associations are not necessarily known for going against the grain but sometimes following the herd just isn’t going to deliver what’s needed.

Take skills for example; every industry has its own employment concerns and ways of dealing with them and we hear a lot about ‘next generation’. There’s no doubting it’s important to ensure the industry is attractive to new recruits, but surely the best way of turning heads is by having a happy workforce who can do a much better job at selling the sizzle on your behalf? 

One size doesn’t fit all so it’s our job to create opportunities and resources that can be tailored by our members to suit their requirements. 

In the first instance, we’re surveying members to see what their rising stars have in common, what was their career path, what stand out qualities do they have, has moving around the industry made them better at their job, or is it about attitude and ambition? 

Focusing on four different roles of sales, marketing, operations and event management, the research has already given us some valuable insight into what makes a good employee. The next step for the Talent Working Group is to prioritise the need by role and find out whether our members want support in attracting first jobbers and candidates with a bit of experience behind them or up-skilling existing talent. 

The AEO has spent the last two years identifying and working on initiatives that put our members first and can be tailored to add value. The ‘E’ in ‘AEO’ covers a diverse mix of organisations and, if we focused purely on what was important to just one member type, we wouldn’t be doing a great job at supporting the industry we represent. 

You may find it surprising that, during the past 18 months, 50% of new AEO members have, first and foremost, been conference businesses. There are a number of reasons for this: the first is that there’s a big opportunity at AEO to learn how others do business. We have a very active membership where even well established event organisers are eager to see if there’s a better way of doing things. Working groups, such as the Talent Working Group, are great for this because they cover every function involved in putting on an event. These groups are where legislation is discussed, best practice processes put in place, development opportunities sought and solutions debated across finance, HR, health, safety, and security, sales and marketing.  

The free resources AEO offers members, including guides, research, videos and webinars for teams and customers, are another reason why we’re attracting more conference organisers into membership. This year’s salary survey, for example, includes conference roles across four different levels and the AEO Excellence Awards categories, which are free for members to enter, have evolved to include 10 categories that are relevant to conferences. 

Historically AEO started out as an association representing pure play exhibition organisers but is now very different. Association, conference, exhibition and publisher companies, with a mix of content rich conferences and exhibition space alongside their events, are all working together to develop and grow the industry. One size doesn’t fit all but one voice can make a huge difference.