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Get on the Good Foot

IAEE President and CEO David DuBois talks about DE&I in the industry and how it enhances the workforce.

Editorial Note: Originally published in the June 2022 issue of Trade Show Executive magazine.

“My expectations of other people, I double them on myself.” – James Brown

As we approach the mid-point of this year, the trade show industry has much reason to be positive about the future. Face-to-face events are making a steady return, with safety as the top priority for show organizers. As the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) reported last month with the release of its 2022 CEIR Index Report, industry performance is projected to continue on an upward slope albeit just how quickly remains to be seen. The good news is very welcomed as we recover from the most challenging period of our industry’s history.

For this reason, I believe we should keep the positivity flowing. In February I discussed the importance of supporting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) throughout the industry. What it boils down to for executive leaders is creating the strongest team possible. This can only be done when we are willing to engage in a reciprocal relationship with the talent available to us.

We are familiar with this process. About a decade ago, we made a strong push to attract young professionals to the industry. Until then, the tendency was to “fall into” this line of work. When millennials outnumbered all other generations in the overall workforce, we realized that it was time to change the way our industry was perceived so that it would appeal to the incoming talent base.

And we did. For example, IAEE worked closely with the U.S. Department of Labor to recognize our industry with its own competency model. An increasing number of colleges and universities are tailoring their hospitality programs to offer exhibition management as its own career path. We have been diligent in providing YPs with their own voice among the industry. As a result, today we boast a proud representation of YPs that play an essential role in keeping our industry fresh and cutting edge. The YP community has shown itself to be a passionate, hard-working and tight knit group focused on growing and strengthening the trade show industry.

The time has come to repeat this success with other communities. We have a wealth of talent waiting for us to welcome them to our industry and it will benefit us greatly to do so. With that in mind, IAEE formed the DE&I Committee to address how to do this. The committee has been busy surveying members for feedback, creating education programming, working with chapters to enhance its reach among industry professionals, and engaging in much-needed conversations through blogs and social media. One if its most exciting progressions is the creation of a scholarship program geared toward diverse individuals at the high school level who represent underserved markets that will offer an opportunity to consider the exhibition industry as a career path.

In the past two years, our industry has had to adapt to entirely new ways of doing things. We have taken a devastating hit and turned it into a learning experience that has yielded innovative, advantageous ways of conducting business. We are seeing things in a new light and opened opportunities for making the trade show industry stronger – hopefully, even more so – than before. Enacting DE&I in our organizations is a powerful conduit for this process because the wider the talent base, the better the organization and, ultimately, the stronger the overall industry. I challenge executive leaders to take a step forward in enhancing their DE&I efforts within their organizations. Whether it’s by asking for honest feedback from your team members, forming a task force to address where your company can do better, and/or putting a plan into action that will open opportunities to underserved communities, the point is to pull the best of our industry together and get on the good foot!

David DuBois, CMP-F, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO

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