In Exhibition News this month, Andrew Harrison, outlines the vision for the trade body, its members and wider industry for the year ahead.

The craziness of the last three years, going from complete industry shutdown to one of the busiest years ever for exhibitions amid a talent crisis and rising cost pressures, has underlined the importance of the leadership and support that ESSA provides.

We have worked tirelessly on behalf of our members over the last 12 months to raise industry standards, develop our training and education proposition, tackle the talent shortage, improve representation at government level, and much more. And we have big ambitions to continue to rebuild better and drive industry growth in 2023.

Our vision for the year ahead, as with everything we do, is based around our four key pillars: Lead & Represent; Enable; Community; and Value

Lead & Represent

Picking up where we left off in 2022, ESSA will lead and represent on the core issues that affect our members and the broader industry by continuing to build on the momentum gained to date to ensure better advocacy and understanding of our sector and how it can support the government’s economic growth plans.

Thanks to our work externally with the Events Industry Alliance and our public affairs company, the UK government is finally waking up to the power of business events as an enabler for growth. We are a sector that generates £11bn of economic impact and services 180,000 companies, providing them with platforms to trade, and generating £70bn of additional revenue for these businesses – and we need to be recognised as such.

Internally, for the past 12 months, we have invested in developing our ‘ESSA Asks’ research alongside our members. This will form the backbone of ESSA’s work within the sector throughout 2023, covering an array of topics that both positively and negatively affect the running of our industry, our shared clients, our ability to perform to our best, and the overall wellbeing of the people who work within events. 

It’s the first time ESSA will release such a report to the sector. By leading and driving an agenda which outlines areas of improvement for enhanced collaboration and support, along with a defined strategy towards achieving this together with organisers, venues and exhibitors, we strongly believe that it will have a positive impact on all stakeholder groups to ultimately benefit everyone.


Enabling our members to do business better remains at the heart of ESSA’s purpose. While we’re not in the habit of predicting the future, the current economic and political uncertainty means the coming months will undoubtedly present the industry with challenges and maybe even a couple more black swan events. But, in a strange twist of fate, the past two to three years have prepared us for much sterner tests and the supply chain has recovered in a manner that now sees them more resilient and better prepared to support the sector in 2023.

As the industry continues to evolve, our work will continue at pace in areas of accreditation and further developing ESSA Accredited, which remains the only industry specific contractor accreditation covering areas of broader health and safety, CDM, planning and sustainability. 

ESSA and its members plan to be at the forefront of this change for good as we continue to raise the bar on industry standards. The accreditation is the benchmark we’re setting for the event supplier and services sector. We’re helping all stakeholders and importantly our customers meet their minimum legal obligation when operating in the industry moving forward.

Community – Stronger Together

We are nothing without our members. Though the scars of 2020/21 are still visible, since the pandemic, our members have been the cornerstone of how the industry has recovered by finding new solutions to drive growth. They have played a pivotal role in taking the supply chain to new levels in 2023 and beyond to become a better sector with superior standards, efficiency, safety and welfare.  

There is strength in numbers and growing our supplier and services community is a key focus this year, following the appointment of our dedicated sales and business development manager last October. Quite simply, the more ESSA members, the greater the collective strength in the community, the more representative we can be on major issues, the more we can invest in industry-leading products and services for all and the safer the industry will be.


Training forms a huge part of our 2023 vision to add further value to members, enabling them to demonstrate their commitment to the highest standards and giving them a competitive edge with clients.

Last year we launched two individual online training programmes: the first with a focus on health and safety and the second on sustainability, both freely available to full members. Training in Diversity & Inclusion will follow this year.

We pledge to commit more resources to grow our education proposition this year including supplementing our online training programmes with certified face-to-face regional training which starts in February.

There may still be some bumps in the road ahead, and whilst we can’t be 100% sure what 2023 holds, there is one thing we have full confidence in: ESSA members will collectively drive the sector forward pushing the envelope as they do so.

Published in the Spring 2023 issue of Exhibition News


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The Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA) is a trade body representing the very best contractors and suppliers of goods and services to the UK’s thriving events industry.

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