Association hopes industry becomes profitable again

20th January 2023

By: Cameron Mackay

Creamer Media Senior Online Writer


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The Exhibition and Event Association of Southern Africa (EXSA) hopes that profits increase this year for the local business conferences and exhibitions industry, but EXSA GM Lee-Ann Alder recognises that rising living costs remain a significant challenge going forward.

“We foresee that 2023 will be much better organised, and suppliers will have more structure to work within, which will make planning much easier. We also foresee that budgets will still be tight, so we have to work smarter.”

Alder argues that the local industry produces world-class quality business conferences and events, and that this reputation is going to assist the industry this year.

She also emphasises the importance of collaboration, which will also assist in “bringing many of the smaller, more specialised organisations to the fore”.

“Working together to grow and develop is going to open many doors, resulting in teamwork and better results for our industry. EXSA is working with government departments to ensure that members are preferred suppliers, thus regulating the industry and maintaining standards of production. We do the same with organisers and venues.”

She says there are challenges in terms of standardising health and safety standards, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic, owing to every venue and event organiser having a different modus operandi, making it difficult to work to specific standards.

Collaboration is crucial for the local industry in standardising practices for in-person events; this standardisation is often time consuming, owing to events and venues having a different set of induction processes.

“Some events are still hosted as hybrid events, but this is mainly owing to distance. In-person events are back in full force – both consumer and business events have attracted large audiences. Technology has made it easier for us to communicate effectively to a large audience, so online workshops will continue, but exhibitions and events will mainly be in-person,” Alder explains.

Short lead-up times to events are also a challenge, and the timeframes provided are sometimes impossible to meet.

She adds that EXSA is liaising with all the large-venue health and safety companies so that EXSA members can follow specific guidelines to ensure consistency when hosting events.

The association has also ensured that members have been educated on the importance of public liability cover and insist on every member’s having an up-to-date policy in place.

“The build-up and breakdown times are handled with every organiser and venue as they happen – it’s about open lines of communication and building good relationships. We can work together to ensure that events run smoothly and safely. EXSA has been working on a charter to standardise design fees to ensure that everyone works to the same standards and ethical code.”

Alder stresses that the safety of members is vital to EXSA, as “anything can go wrong and shorter build-up times increase the danger of an accident occurring”.

Venues are also able to become EXSA members, as the association is looking to rebuild relationships with venues.

“This facilitates better communication and quicker decision-making. If we have a good connection and relationship with a venue, than when there is an issue, we are able to step in and address it with ease. This helps everyone involved and we are able to move forward, as we all have the same goal.”

Individual Membership

EXSA has introduced individual membership options for the association this year, as many people left the companies they worked for during the Covid-19 lockdowns, owing to the business conferences and exhibitions industry having shrunk and many companies having downsized.

“These individuals have skills, experience and knowledge that is vital to the industry. Becoming an individual member has meant that a person can network and rebuild his/her own business within the association. This is beneficial for the individual and EXSA, as we get to retain people with much experience and the member can network and have a sense of belonging.”

The association has many plans in terms of growth and training, and individual members can play an important role in becoming involved in projects that the association undertakes.

“EXSA stands by its members. We are always looking for new opportunities for them to grow and we are proud to work with all of them. The EXSA board is very proactive and mobile – if a decision needs to be made, they will do it and action it to benefit the member there and then,” Alder concludes.

Edited by Zandile Mavuso
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features


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