Business News

Does the Event Industry Really Need Another Trade Association?

Skift Take

MESA is a new association targeting an audience of small and midsize suppliers. Given all the industry organizations already in existence, why is it necessary?

The Meetings & Events Support Association (MESA) is the latest entrant to the alphabet soup of organizations serving the meetings and events industry. Its target audience are event suppliers in the small-to-midsize category (100 employees or less), a segment its founders believe can use more support than is typically offered by associations serving meeting planners or larger suppliers.

“We wanted to create an organization that had real purpose and that served a very targeted niche so that we could promote collaboration and best practices,” said Gordon Glenister, a founder and marketing/membership consultant who serves as communications director for MESA. “We don’t represent planners, exhibition organisers, venues, so because we are so specific we can provide relevant and highly targeted benefits.”

Along with Glenister, the London-based headquarters team includes Director of Membership Services Sandie McCoubrey, who formerly served in that capacity for the Meetings Design Institute, and Director of Strategy Adam Fillary, a business networking specialist. MESA  is also overseen by a steering committee of event supplier chief executives that includes Sebastien Braun of idloom, Jelmer van Ast of Conference Compass, John Martinez of Shocklogic, Felix Stroud-Allen of CrowdComms and Danny Stevens of Fielddrive.


Need for Improvement

According to Glenister, the pandemic and a rapid evolution of event technology have only heightened the need for an organization like MESA and its goals for promoting best practices.

“The last 12 months have been very disruptive for the events industry. I can see greater efficiencies now in the way meetings are planned and executed, but I still think there is more to do. The online exhibition experience has improved massively since the start of the pandemic, but still more could be done to maximize the visitor experience.”

GORDON GLEISTER, Director of Communications, MESA

In particular, it’s smaller suppliers who have the most need of support and collaboration in the current environment, Glenister said.

“We have been quite deliberate in this, because we feel it’s those companies that need and value the support the most, particularly over the last 12 months,” he said. “They don’t feel overshadowed by the huge players, which helps give them a voice through MESA.”

Noting that “technology is now at the heart of every event,” innovation is also a high priority for the organization, according to Glenister.

“MESA recently won an award for our idea to create  an ‘Event Concierge Service’ proposed by one of the founders, Adam Fillary, in a competition,” he said.


Networking Opportunities

Currently MESA’s networking events are taking place online, including monthly members’ meetings and Founding Forums for CEOs, which feature roundtable discussions on various topics. The next Founders Forum is scheduled for September, focusing on mergers and acquisitions.

“We’ll be debating what’s happened in the space and how companies can make themselves ready for acquisitions, considering growing by merging,” Glenister said. “We have event investors joining us too.”

As live events return, MESA plans to run in-person events alongside major exhibitions like Confex, IBTM, IMEX and others.

While MESA members are often in competition with each other, Glenister said that has been no barrier to exchanging ideas and  best practices.

“We have found through our CEO forums how open these debates have been with members sharing all sorts of things because they believe in the bigger picture of growing the sector, rather than taking business from each other.” he said. “We have an onboarding process that is tailored to each member so that we understand what they are hoping to achieve.”

Sebastien Bloom, a founding member and CEO of Belgium-based idloom, agreed, adding that MESA is especially needed during a challenging time when many people in the event industry have had to reinvent themselves and innovate.

“MESA provides a collaborative environment where people from different backgrounds meet to combine their expertise and learn from each other, offering a common culture for its members as being part of a family unit, trusting each other,” he said.

For future growth, MESA is looking for global participation.

“We have already had interest from US based platforms, albeit most of our initial members are based in Europe,” Glenister said. “The fact that we have companies joining us at this time is very encouraging and the more people hear about our missions and purpose, the more it resonates with them. We are not just another association.”