The Chief Executive of the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia is one of the most respected personalities in her industry. In this interview with The Siteseer, Joyce DiMascio shares her insights into the business she loves and lessons learned in her long and distinguished career.
Siteseer: What, in your view, are the key issues facing the industry? You’ve praised its resilience in the past: are you optimistic or otherwise now, and why?
Joyce DiMascio: Many issues impact the performance of the exhibition and events industry – in particular, the state of the economy and the performance of industry sectors within it. When business and consumer confidence is up or down, it directly impacts the sector. When technology, food and lifestyle sectors are up, so are the shows. When the industry category, say mining, is down, so are the mining-related events.
Government policy is also a driver. When you have investment in infrastructure, particularly in venues and transport, it sends a strong message to the events industry that the government values the contribution made by those who deliver events.
“There’s no value in squeezing the small suppliers to cut their margins, they’ll simply be put out of business. Organisers, venues and suppliers have to work together for the good of the whole industry.”
At present we’re seeing record investment in venues around the country, and fit-for-purpose infrastructure helps the industry to run outstanding events. With refreshed venues you get more efficient back-of -house and more satisfying front-of -house experiences for partners, exhibitors, delegates and visitors.
I’m optimistic about the future because our sector is very commercial and nimble. Organisers create new shows to replace under-performing ones. They create marketplaces where buyers and sellers can meet, or where enthusiasts can pursue their passion. This is at the heart of the value proposition of expos.
JD: In Australia we’d like governments to continue to recognise the power of exhibitions to drive the economy, stimulate trade and investment, drive visits and stimulate employment. We’re getting much more traction at a political level and greater awareness of the importance of our sector, but it’s been a slow process. Business events certainly drive tourism, but they do much more [than just that] and we need governments to embrace the opportunity to make more use of trade and consumer expos, meetings, conferences and incentives more.
SS: What will the most successful operators be doing differently in future?
JD: Ultimately the trade or consumer show experience has to be rewarding for customers, whether they’re buyers, visitors or exhibitors. Commercial organisers or association organisers who listen to the customers and evolve their show experience to deliver what they want – they’re the ones who will succeed.
We also need strong partnerships between the organisers, venues and suppliers. All players need to prosper and do well. There’s no value in squeezing the small suppliers to cut their margins, they’ll simply be put out of business. Organisers, venues and suppliers have to work together for the good of the whole industry.
SS: Do Australian venues, generally, represent value for money for inbound business? What have we got that makes us special, and what should we be doing/building to stay a step ahead?
JD: Australian venues are generally very good and we have some outstanding facilities across the states and cities, though some could do with more investment to keep their facilities fit-for-purpose and stay competitive. Venues should consider their food and beverage services, wifi and AV, signage, transport access, back-of-house efficiencies, services, parking, weather-proofing, sound-proofing. These are all basic things fundamental to the operations of a good venue.
Our big convention and exhibition centres are outstanding, and this is recognised globally in the plethora of international awards presented to our venues. We work with them closely and find their capacity to deliver on our requirements to be outstanding. The EEAA holds about 30 events each year around the country. For our meetings and events they’ve all been very good.
SS: You have significant experience in the business, comms and government. What key lessons have you learned along the way that could be useful for PCOs reading this?
JD: I’ve worked in the most extraordinary roles throughout my career – privileged roles. I’ve also worked in a couple of truly awful places. My message is very simple – operate with professionalism always, invest in good staff, communicate openly, understand what’s driving your stakeholders. The thing that drives me most is my love for what I do. I always try to do my personal best every single time. That’s a value I promote with my staff as well. I do my best and I expect my staff to do the same always.
For PCOs and other organisers it’s really important that they build a strong partnership with their clients. They need to demonstrate a much deeper knowledge of the industry sector too. We know PCOs can organise events, but their remit needs to be much deeper. Their knowledge of the industry sector also needs to be outstanding so they can add value for their clients.
SS: There’s a strong need these days, obviously, for venues and business events to embrace CSR and social and environmental credentials. Where’s this trend heading, do you think, and what else should the industry be doing in this respect?
JD: Corporate social responsibility should be in the DNA of all companies; I prefer to call it “responsible business practice”. Australia has a good CSR track record in the business events sector and we continue to recognise its importance. However, we need to keep it on the agenda and not become complacent.
SS: How and why are you enjoying the job?
JD: I’ve been heading up the EEAA for over five years now, and each day is totally energising. I work in an important industry and know the hundreds of events it delivers make a difference to the Australian economy. It’s my job to spread that message. I also love my job because it is difficult. It challenges me always to be looking at new ways to drive outcomes for our members and the industry. But most of all I love it because I feel valued and respected. I work with clever people in a stimulating environment where the future is bright. What more could I ask for?
Joyce DiMascio has led the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia since May 2011. In February 2014 she was named Industry Person of the Year at the Asia-Pacific Incentive and Meetings Expo (AIME) for her contribution to the industry and advocating on its behalf. She is former head of Business Events Australia at Tourism Australia and has led the work to position Australia globally as a place for business events.
Earlier in her career, Joyce was press secretary to two New South Wales Premiers and led the development of the tourism industry’s media strategy for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. She has extensive experience in major events and was a media manager for around 15 visits to Australia by heads of state and royalty including Charles and Diana and the Pope. She also launched the NSW Government’s foray into major events in the ‘90s, kicking off the first big events in food in Sydney and regional NSW – including Feast of Sydney and the Sydney International Jazz Festival.
She is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, a councillor on the Board of Business Events Council Australia and a former board member of Trainworks and the Food Media Club of Australia.
ABOUT THE EEAA
The Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) is the peak industry association representing organisers, association organisers, venues and suppliers in the exhibition and event sector who deliver over 500 trade and consumer expos and shows a year.
An Ernst & Young study, The Value of Business Events to Australia, showed that in 2013-14 there were 2,157 exhibitions staged in Australia, attracting 9.3 million visitors and over 65,000 exhibitors. The direct expenditure from exhibitions was $3.1 billion and these events contributed direct “value-add” of $1.5 billion and generated over 21,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
A not-for-profit organisation, the EEAA supports the industry by encouraging high standards, promoting association members and highlighting the business opportunities that exhibitions represent.
For more information contact Joyce DiMascio, EEAA Chief Executive, on 02 9413 9520 or 0412 869 229, or Rebecca Ius, Events and Marketing Executive, on 02 9413 9520.
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