A guide to the industry associations: Who’s who?

Whether you’re new to the industry or not, getting your head around the various associations and their acronyms can be trifle tricky; it can sometimes be easy to get confused with what they do and which is relevant to your part of the industry.

Several membership associations, with each offering different services to different branches, overlook the UK MICE industry. Invariably these associations cross over each other, and understanding the differences is not always so easy to see. This selection is by no means exhaustive.

One thing they all have in common is that they live under the BVEP umbrella. The Business Visits and Events Partnerships (BVEP) is the industry associations’ association.

Michael Hirst, chairman of BVEP, describes the organisation as “an umbrella representing trade and professional organisations, government agencies and other significant influencers in the business visits and events sector. BVEP exists to garner the cohesive opinion of these stakeholders and to collectively influence and develop policies, practices and strategies that support and generate growth in the sector. It also aims to raise sector awareness through clear communications of the social and economic benefits of the business visits and events sector.

BVEP only accepts membership from organisations, not individuals.

ABPCO

What it stands for: Association of British Professional Conference Organisers

We spoke to: Heather Lishman, ABPCO association director

Members: 172

Revenue: In period 2015-16, ABPCO posted a net income of £100,000, up from £90,000 the year before

USP: Focused on not-for-profit and association market. ABPCO takes supplier and client references to ensure all members are attested professionals.

How have ABPCO’s finances changed over the last few years? Both income and membership have increased. We’re a non-profit organisation and invest everything back in, so our surplus doesn’t increase. We’re at a good level now.

How do you cooperate with other organisations in the sector? We are an active member of BVEP and we signpost to the other associations where appropriate.

Can you see ABPCO merging with another association any time soon? No.

What initiatives is ABPCO currently promoting? We have an association app, a mentoring scheme, a series of webinars and some celebrations for our 30th anniversary (2017).

In 2016 we worked more closely with our university members to distribute research to members and promoting membership.

What are the key issues members ask you to tackle? Nuts and bolts training, community engagement and member sharing of best practice, professional development and nurturing of younger recruits.

ILEA UK

What it stands for: International Live Events Association (UK Chapter)

We spoke to: Alistair Turner, president

Members: 220, and climbing

USP: The only association in the UK that claims to speak the language of business and brands and that regularly has a dialogue with them.

How do you cooperate with other organisations in the sector? We have great relationships with other associations. In the past we put on Mistletoe with MPI and SITE. There isn’t a huge amount of cross over from our members, but where other associations can add value, we’re keen to work with them.

Can you see ILEA merging with another association any time soon? Not with us!

What initiatives is ILEA currently promoting? Firstly: #followtheconversation! We’re encouraging members and non-members to continue to lead the conversation on where this industry will grow. We also continue to speak the language of business and brands. Too many associations speak internally to our industry. Every event is funded by businesses and brands and we’re having conversations with them to help them understand our value.

What are the key issues members ask you to tackle? Brexit! This, and a wider conversation about business and brands’ hatred of instability. The role event technology will have in the experience industry has also come up. Members also want to know how events can grow on to the boardroom table while still owning the experience economy.

EVCOM

What it stands for: Event and Visual Communication Agency

We spoke to: Steve Garvey, CEO

Members: 400, 45% live entertainment agencies, 15% hotels, 12% clients, 10% suppliers

Revenue: EVCOM posts annual revenues in the region of £600,000

USP: EVCOM helps its members by enabling them to interact with the people they want to meet.

How have EVCOM’s finances changed over the last few years? The merger of Eventia and the IVCA in 2013 is now complete so our financial plan is to deliver more member benefits with the same level of resource.

How do you cooperate with other organisations in the sector? We work closely with BVEP, HBAA and Euromic, among others. Much of our collaboration with other industry bodies is channelled through our membership of BVEP. We believe the EU referendum result creates a strong impetus for associations to work more closely to provide a strong voice to the government.

Can you see EVCOM merging with another association any time soon? No, we just finished one!

What initiatives is EVCOM currently promoting? We recently launched EVCOM Academy. It’s tailored to teach business development skills that are rarely covered but critical for business success.

Our new Board is consulting with members over initiatives to counter the uncertainty around Brexit.

What are the key issues members ask you to tackle? Business development opportunities, guidance on what Brexit actually means, and industry education and training.

ICCA

What it stands for: International Congress and Convention Association

We spoke to: Lesley Williams, UK & Ireland chapter chair

Members: 73

USP: ICCA delivers strong educational events that give added value to members and to create business development opportunities, and engagement through digital marketing.

How have ICCA’s finances changed over the last few years? Little has changed with our finances in terms of “money in the bank.” This is due to our long-term partnership with Levy Restaurants. They help us to achieve some excellent training and events.

How do you cooperate with other organisations in the sector? We have a strong track record of collaboration with the other organisations in our sector, like the Annual Masterclass in September. Publications; we have held joint debates with other ICCA Chapters including Iberian, France and Benelux and North America, and also worked with MPI and IAPCO on educational events.

Can you see ICCA merging with another association any time soon? This would be a decision taken by ICCA headquarters.

What initiatives is ICCA UK & Ireland currently promoting? Our focus is on creating educational and networking events as outlined already. We have also been working closely with Levy Restaurants to review food related issues in the industry, most recently looking at food trends at the last couple of events held in conjunction with Levy Restaurants.

What are the key issues members ask you to tackle? Feedback from our members highlights the requirement for an on-going and strong education programme that facilitates networking; to be informed about industry issues that may affect them; and assistance with business development.

HBAA

What it stands for: Hotel Booking Agents Association

We spoke to: Juliet Price, consultant executive director

Members: 86 agencies and 226 venue companies

Revenue: HBAA is a not-for-profit organisation

USP: Standard Code of Practice, and boasts an international reach to over 3,000 Charter Partner venues.

How have HBAA’s finances changed over the last few years? We have outsourced our operational HQ, and work with contracted suppliers to fulfil the services, as opposed to employing staff. Work is carried out on a voluntary basis.

How do you cooperate with other organisations in the sector? We are always open to collaboration, e.g. our endorsement of the AIM scheme operated by mia. Through being a member of the BVEP we are aware of opportunities for joint ventures that will support our members’ businesses. We are also working with the Meeting Needs charity over the next two years.

Can you see HBAA merging with another association any time soon? None are planned.

What initiatives is HBAA currently promoting? We are launching the simple meetings benchmarking tool, as well as a sustainability accreditation for venues. Fundraising for Brigade with events such as Wolf Run and community days.

What are the key issues members ask you to tackle? Access to benchmarking data and the potential minimisation of options provided for small and simple meetings. Brexit business trends, impacts and strategies. Minimising risk and maximising security for customers.

mia

What it stands for: Meetings Industry Association

We spoke to: Jane Longhurst, chief executive

USP: To make sure that venues and suppliers in the meetings, conferences, and events sector are given the opportunity to reach the absolute pinnacle of operational and service excellence.

How do you cooperate with other organisations in the sector? The mia plays an active part in the BVEP where the sector’s associations come together to raise the profile of the industry. In addition, the mia has a subsidiary company, Membership Support Services (MSS) which offers services to other trade associations. In this sector, MSS manages the day-to-day operation of events and hospitality association the HBAA.

Can you see MIA merging with another association any time soon? No.

What initiatives is MIA currently promoting? Operational excellence is a core theme for the mia that we actively promote. Planning a meeting can seem like an overwhelming task but there are initiatives that can help such as mia’s Accredited in Meetings (AIM), which is the meeting industry’s only nationally recognised accreditation scheme for product and service quality.

We also have Touchstone: our powerful benchmarking research tool that allows businesses to track how many people attended conferences, among other things.

We’ve recently launched a website on how to find the 500+ AIM-accredited venues who will help ensure your meetings and events are a resounding success.”

What are the key issues members ask you to tackle? Brexit has naturally been identified as a key initiative for the mia to tackle. As soon as the result was announced, the mia was the first industry association to publicly publish its reaction and called for members to embrace the result but not sit back.

MPI

What it stands for: Meeting Professionals International

We spoke to: Hamish Reid, commerical director

Members: 16,500 members – 200 in the UK

USP: Individual membership and accredited education

How have MPI’s finances changed over the last few years? An increase in event engagement means an increase in sponsorship and revenue generation through events.

How do you cooperate with other organisations in the sector? Globally, MPI is part of the Convention Industry Council.

Can you see MPI merging with another association any time soon? No.

What initiatives is MPI currently promoting? We are continuing with live events and accredited education in the main.

What are the key issues members ask you to tackle? Put simply, networking opportunities, accredited education, and market place opportunities.

Martin Fullard

Author

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard: journalist, presenter, producer. Martin is the Deputy Editor at Conference News and Conference & Meetings World magazines. He leads the digital channels on Mash Media’s Conference Division as well as heading up Mash TV. He is formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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