As one of 80 individuals who participated, I spent the day walking the virtual halls of congress, advocating to lawmakers and policy influencers on the importance and economic impact of the events and trade show industries. As a Maryland resident, I was joined by clients, partners and industry friends working to influence policy at our state level as well.
Local Impact – Global Reach
It is staggering to think that B2B events support 6.6 million jobs and contributed 396 billion dollars to U.S. GDP, according to IAEE. In Maryland alone (my home and home of Personify’s Columbia, MD office), there were 35,000 events jobs supported and 4.4 billion of economic impact to the state. If you combine the states of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, we collectively support 142,000 events industry jobs and 26.5 billion dollars of economic impact for the tri-state area.
The Capitol Hill Experience
Having participated in this activity for many years, it was interesting to look back at the “issues of the day” compared to what we have faced in the past two years. Many of my colleagues who have typically joined me for this day are no longer in the events industry–adding more relevancy to push our agenda forward and highlight the importance of our mission.
Each meeting was typically an introduction of ourselves, a reminder of the topics important to us and to understand the representatives’ knowledge of both the events industry and the bills. It is always encouraging when the legislators or their staffers comprehend the business or the bills on some level. What is always the most powerful and humbling (particularly this year) is when our team shared impact statements. We shared how deeply the pandemic has affected our businesses, events and clients and how these particular bills can help. Communicating how our clients have been challenged, yet so resilient and creative was personally cathartic and rewarding for me.
Virtual Advocacy – Hybrid Future
Ironically, we were working to advocate for the return of in-person events virtually again this year. But like many events saw in 2020, a virtual audience allowed many to participate in events they otherwise would have not been able to. So, in this case, we could engage more legislators from more states with our message. I have forgotten the privilege of being an hour’s drive from the seat of our government. It has been far easier for me to participate year after year because of my proximity to Washington, DC.
So here, a hybrid experience makes excellent sense in future years since I want others to participate in such an important day, regardless of their location. They should feel the rush of talking to those who are actively making our country’s most significant decisions. The larger the group and more voices shared from every state, the more we can make a difference in our industry.
Today we shared how Congress can help us bring back jobs, jumpstart our recovery, and support our industry’s small businesses with the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act (H.R.1346). This act will encourage both exhibitors and attendees to return to exhibitions, conferences, and trade shows. Section 2 of the bill creates a 3-year convention and trade show restart tax credit:
- 50% of qualified participation costs paid or incurred by attendees including registration fees, lodging, and expenses associated with trade show exhibitions.
- 100% of qualified restart costs paid or incurred by eligible providers (venues, show organizers, etc.), including any renovation, remediation, PPE, cleaning, testing, or labor needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
These provisions are critical to encouraging organizations to start planning and contracting for exhibitions and conferences taking place next year and beyond, which means that contracts will begin to flow again and rehiring can ramp up.
The bill also provides recovery measures for the travel, entertainment, and hospitality industries and their workers. Still, ECA is focused on Section 2, which is focused on accelerating the return of face-to-face business events.
Before we left each meeting, it was essential to always ask for their support or co-sponsorship of the bill. Many will provide assurance they will investigate it further. Some make it clear they will support it. Either way, it is what we can do to help the industry. We also follow up from our meetings sharing additional information and providing answers to any outstanding questions to further stay in front.
How Can You Get Involved?
Regardless of your experience advocating (I had never advocated until I started with this event years ago), everyone can be engaged in future activities and share information from this event on social media. You can also always contact your local representative with the scripts and resources found here.