Like so many associations, the International Association for Exhibition Management moved quickly on a number of fronts following the events of September 11. Among the immediate actions taken was the decision to postpone three board meetings that were scheduled to take place later that week in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

We also launched a major effort to get industry news relating to the tragedies out to our members via our Web site, which saw a record number of hits in the weeks following the attacks. Moreover, IAEM staff phoned each of our 3,500-plus members to reassure them and to offer support.

Next came the creation of an Exhibition Security Task Force, including an outreach effort between IAEM and industry associations such as the International Association for Assembly Managers and the Exposition Service Contractors Association, with the goal of establishing a “best practices of exhibition security” plan, as well as resources to enhance the security of exhibitions.

Most challenging of all, IAEM created, in about five days, a meeting that will run concurrently with our annual meeting and expo in Chicago, December 4 to 6. The Security & Risk Conference, a 10-session event offered free to annual meeting registrants, features topics of relevance to the post — September 11 world, particularly as they relate to exhibition management.

“The conference was intended to orient people to the issues of security and crisis and establish a baseline of understanding,” says IAEM President Steven Hacker, CAE.

But how did we react so quickly and organize this new event in such a short time? Hacker says IAEM's well-developed communications network was key. For example, IAEM has offered members an event cancellation insurance program for years, so it was easy to contact insurance partners for information. “They particularly wanted to help get information out on such issues as how the losses caused by the events of September 11 will affect insurance coverage for our industry, how claims will be processed, and how these events may affect the cost and availability of insurance coverage,” Hacker notes.

The annual meeting already had some sessions on insurance topics, so those were placed under the new Security & Risk Conference umbrella, and five or six more sessions on other topics were created. Other speaker suggestions came from members, whose diversity of businesses presented many speaker choices.

We publicized the new event through press releases, e-mail, and our “Weekly Digest” of industry news (www.weeklydigest.org), which appears on IAEM's Web site (www.iaem.org). The annual meeting brochure, listing the education programs, had already been mailed, so as elements of the new conference were finalized, we updated our Web site and included details in our on-site program.

Response to the new conference has been extremely favorable. At press time, 542 attendees had signed up for one or more of the 10 Security & Risk Conference education sessions. As IAEM Education Manager Kip Eads notes, “In this case, our annual meeting theme, Rise to the Occasion, really underscores our intention to do just that.”




Gary Tufel is the editorial director for Dallas-based IAEM.