The benefits of true collaboration between associations in the business events industry

The benefits of collaboration in every industry are well-known, though the extent and success of doing so depends on multiple practical and political realities.

In the business events world, national (such as SACEOS), regional (such as AFECA) and global (such as the PCMA) associations exist, each courting their own set of members. All of them aim to develop the industry by possessing a stronger collective voice.

Effective collaborations will have associations working closely to address common challenges

However, in a business landscape where increased competition leads to firms being less picky about the type of events managed, it makes less sense for businesses or individuals to be part of several associations – each representing a specialised aspect of the business events industry, which in its essence is “aggregator” industry.

One thing for sure, getting together will have the usual benefits such as economies of sale and scope, providing members with more benefits at lower costs. The corollary might be the usual politics and pains of collaboration, but the gains far outweigh challenges if these associations truly exist to serve industry and members, instead of narrow interests.

One common issue faced by business events industry associations is the difficult to grow memberships, attract sponsorships, develop and market content profitably, and create meaningful and profitable events, often for a similar set of audiences.

Effective collaborations should see associations working closely together to address these common challenges at a strategic level, beyond the piecemeal support given from event to event.

As a business owner invited to be part of different associations in the industry, a fundamental manifestation of such a collaboration might be in the form of paying for a core membership and a “rider” to enjoy limited or full benefits from partner associations.

This will result in a win-win-win situation.

1. Associations win by gaining members they would not have otherwise, with incremental revenues, and a stronger voice. More benefits may be offered to members at less cost and effort in a virtuous cycle of growth. More members imply more reach and potential revenue sources, while encouraging associations to streamline duplicated efforts and events.

2. Members win by having access to a related but wider range of benefits and networks without having to pay several full memberships, as overlaps do not make sense.

3. Industry wins as this pragmatic approach encourages more strategic collaborations between the various associations that exist. In addition, more industry involvement from the ground up also aids in efforts to set standards and share best practices, especially important for a relatively fragmented industry to have a stronger collective voice to fight common industry ills, and prevent client abuses.

Complex as it might seem, it is hoped that given the benefits, associations will unite to overcome any organisational challenges that exist in the better service of their common stakeholders and industry.

Daniel Chua is the chief executive of Aonia, a client enabler through Events that Engage, Energise and Empower worldwide. Aonia specialises in serving MNCs in the pharmaceutical, finance and technology sectors.

Actively involved in the business events industry since 1999, Chual has a global network of business events partners, and has an extensive knowledge of hotels and venues in major cities that are most suited to client needs.

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