Rod Cameron: Better together

Rod Cameron, executive director, Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC), calls for associations to make use of reserves to keep as many jobs as possible, as well as focus on knowledge sharing to tide through this period.

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on some industry associations which had no choice but to suspend operations or lay off staff. How has JMIC been impacted?
JMIC has always had very modest resources so we are as yet unaffected by staffing issues and doing the best we can to act as an aggregator, access point and analyst for the wide array of information and resources being generated by individual member organisations via the JMIC website at www.themeetingsindustry.org.

This is a better course than to attempt to recreate what is already useful and available, and this includes everything from links to member resources to specific resources such as guides and leading national strategies of note.

What challenges are associations with in-house teams facing?
In the absence of specific information, it may be assumed that most associations will be re-evaluating resources in anticipation of needing to maintain priority activities in the face of potentially reduced revenues in the coming year.

However, as we are relatively early into the current fiscal, most will have some time to sort this out. Much will depend on the reserves that have been built up in “the good times” and their “burn rate”.

Major objectives will be to maintain core programming and to redeploy resources from areas with reduced demand, for example live events, in favour of those having to ramp up such as online presence, remote engagement capabilities, etc.

What can associations do to help affected staff?
First, they have to be fully aware of the wide range of applicable government support measures and how they can facilitate access for affected staff.

This is becoming highly complex and individuals will need all the help they can get to navigate the process. However, there is also a psychological component – identifying and promoting ongoing roles that will give staff something useful to do, even at a reduced level of engagement.

This will not only enhance functionality but would help support their morale and ensure they are better able to re-engage when conditions improve.

What can associations – hit by no event revenue and possible membership fee delinquency – do to continue serving members?
I think the time for “motivational pronouncements” is over. The biggest need now is to use the power of the collective to gather and distribute hard information – to create context – and facilitate the exchange of strategies and policies being developed either by governments or the members themselves in order to cope.

The greatest value of a collective is the power of sharing. That is where we should be focusing efforts now, and it has the added benefit of being pretty cost-effective.

JMIC has provided a forum for information exchange, strategy development and the recognition of excellence among industry groups for well over 50 years. It can continue to document and communicate the diverse values of the industry in supporting global economic, academic, professional and social development.

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