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Jessica Finnerty, CEM Jumps into Advocacy

Jessica Finnerty, CEM, could see Washington, D.C. from her office window. But she never imagined she’d one day experience what went on in the rarified halls of the U.S. Congress.

That was five years ago, before she participated in Exhibitions Day and started using her voice to show how exhibitions mean business.

Today, Jessica is an advocate for IAEE. It’s also part of her job as meeting and events manager at the Auto Care Association, where she has worked since 2005.

“Many people don’t know how the legislative process works, so it seems so far way, like looking at the Hollywood sign and feeling so far from it,” says Jessica. “When I started going to Exhibitions Day with IAEE, it was fun. It was impactful. It felt like I was doing something. I saw how the process works and was having these conversations with people who are the ones making the decisions. I was hooked.”

Jessica meets with the Las Vegas delegation on Exhibitions Day because AAPEX is based there. She describes advocacy as making sure that what’s specific to you and your industry are really being acknowledged.

“When you spend a legislative day on the Hill, you see every industry and so much going on,” she says. “Making people aware that your industry pain points do matter, showing legislators how it impacts their district helps make sure it does not get lost in shuffle.”

Reaching out to key decision-makers provides an opportunity to educate on points that matter to your association, the industry and that lawmaker’s constituents. In Jessica’s case, meeting U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) at Exhibitions Day turned into an invitation to attend AAPEX in Las Vegas.

After talking with Rep. Titus, Jessica coordinated with the Auto Care Association government affairs team to follow up and invite the Congresswoman to the show. She has now been to three Auto Care Association shows, meeting members and exhibitors to better understand how the event impacts jobs and her constituents.

“The most gratifying thing is when you are in a meeting and you can educate someone about something that is important to you,” says Jessica. “You don’t think that your voice matters and then you go and do something like this, and you see that it does. Even if it’s little bits, you are making a difference and it’s so good.”

This year, Jessica is working with her association to educate the public about how cars capture and use data about our location, driving behavior, vehicle health and more.

“We have a consumer campaign: Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice,” explains Jessica. “We want to make people more aware that this is an issue and are pushing to get legislation on these practices because there is no control over who sees this data.”

Through her advocacy work, what seemed like something so far away earlier in her career is now something that Jessica fully embraces. “I’ve learned that I enjoy politics, and I thought I never did,” she says. “If you care about issues and want to make a difference, just jump in.”

Exhibitions Day 2020 (June 2-3) registration will open in April, but you can start using your voice now!

Jessica’s Top Advocacy Tips:

  • Get involved. Exhibitions Day is a great starting place but so is the state and local level.
  • Work with your internal government affairs or legislative team if you have one. They will know the best ways to foster a relationship.
  • Encourage your members to reach out; give them tools to help explain how exhibitions mean business.
  • Plan a legislative day for your members; leverage any meeting around Washington, D.C. to engage more members.
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