What was born as a meeting of exhibition industry leaders to discuss best practices and guiding principles has developed into a new organization for the industry.

The not-yet-named organization is not an association, but rather a federation of associations operating within the exhibition industry, explains Steven Hacker, president, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, Dallas.

The decision to make the group permanent stems from the second All-Exhibition Industry Summit, February 24 in Atlanta. Exhibition leaders held the inaugural summit in October 2011 as a way to “circle the wagons” to promote the industry, rather than “cannibalize ourselves,” says Hacker.

The first meeting yielded enough constructive dialogue that attendees decided to schedule the February event. “It then became apparent that there were a lot of good things that could be achieved if we kept this organization moving forward,” says Hacker. As a result, attendees at the February meeting formed several task forces, including one to come up with a governance structure and another to develop best practices for the exhibition industry.

Governance will be minimal, according to Hacker, who sits on the governance task force. “The purpose of the governance is really going to be meeting-centric,” Hacker says. Someone will be appointed to schedule meetings, book venues, call meetings to order, etc., but there will be no executive committee or board of directors. The framework will be very collaborative, with decisions being made by the group as a whole. “We truly want to work toward achieving consensus,” says Hacker. “We can all achieve more if we work together rather than throw rocks at each other from afar.”

Initially, the group consisted of volunteer leaders at IAEE, Exhibition Services and Contractors Association, Society of Independent Show Organizers, American Society of Association Executives, Center for Exhibition Industry Research, Corporate Event Marketers Association, Destination Marketing Association International, Exhibitor Appointed Contractors Association, Exhibit Designers and Producers Association, Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association, International Association of Venue Managers, International Center for Exhibitor and Event Marketing, International Exhibition Logistics Associates, Professional Convention Management Association, and Trade Show Exhibitors Association. (TSEA has since dissolved and merged with EACA.)

Now the organization has been broadened to encompass other groups, including the International Union of Painters and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. It’s also been expanded to include one paid staff member and two volunteer leaders from each organization. Having a paid staff member will give the organization continuity. Overall, there will be 40 to 50 members.

Hacker, who is chairman of the board at the Convention Industry Council, says this group is different from the CIC in that it’s focused exclusively on exhibitions. We are trying to elevate the discussion,” he says. “We are not bringing these people together so that we can talk about forced freight or drayage—those kinds of tactical issues. This is supposed to be about issues that rise to the strategic level, that have the potential to affect a large segment of the industry.”

The next meeting of the organization will likely be in the fall, and the group will meet regularly after that, at least once a year.