With the goal of establishing a set of guiding principles and best practices for the exhibition industry, leaders of four event industry associations have developed a new event, the All-Exhibition Industry Summit. The idea for the summit resulted from conversations among exhibition industry leaders, who formed an alliance earlier this year to discuss issues of mutual interest, explained Steven Hacker, president, International Association of Exhibitions and Events.

“There have been many piecemeal attempts throughout the years to define those practices that are essential to the efficient and fair conduct of business in the exhibition industry,” said Chuck Grouzard, chairman, Exhibition Services and Contractors Association. “While we applaud all of those past attempts, the fact remains there are too many troublesome issues that demand a common and agreed-to set of understandings. Anything less than a broad and comprehensive industry effort is destined to fail.”

In addition to Grouzard, the effort is spearheaded by John Graham, president and chief executive officer, ASAE; Vinnie Polito, chairman, International Association of Exhibitions and Events; and Sean Guerre, chairman, Society of Independent Show Organizers.

Two elected leaders from each of the associations that are active in the U.S. exhibitions industry will be invited to attend the summit. In addition to ASAE, IAEE, ESCA, and SISO, a number of other groups will be invited, including the 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.

“One of the things we agreed upon was that we were going to exclude from the discussion people like me, paid staff,” said Hacker, acknowledging that association leaders could perhaps become too territorial or set in their ways. “This is the time for the volunteer leadership, the content experts who are in the business of exhibitions, to drive the train.”

The day-and-a-half summit will likely be held in October at a not-yet-determined location. An independent facilitator will be hired to guide proceedings. Hacker hopes that it’s not a one-time event. “We’ll have to await the outcome to determine what happens next.” But he doesn’t expect one meeting to address all the issues. “If we can agree to some basic principles, if we can create the framework for continuing cooperation and dialogue, I think a lot will have been gained.”

While it’s premature to speculate on what specific topics will be discussed, Hacker added that the conversations will likely focus more on strategic issues and new solutions rather than tactical matters, like, for example, material handling or exhibit housing.

Said Polito, “If all of the organizations in our industry set aside our respective organizational egos and devote our full attention to crafting real solutions that will withstand time and further economic stress, we will have contributed something very important to our members and the customers that they all serve.”