Welcome to #BoardTalk where we catch up with an ESSA board member to ask about life in the #eventsindustry, their ambitions for ESSA and probe them for any words of wisdom.

In the hot seat this month is ESSA Board member and treasurer and Managing Director of Aztec Services, John Robson.

Why did you choose to work in the events industry?

I didn’t choose to work in the industry, rather it chose me. Specifically, I was a marketeer working for a computer manufacturer. I joined Aztec as MD when it was a computer rental company in 1999 and spotted an opportunity to rent computers, and later plasma screens, to exhibition organisers and the rest, as they say, is history!

What was your previous experience before joining the ESSA board?

I’d been running Aztec for a few years when, in 2003, a new association called the Association of Event Contractors (AEC) was formed. Aztec joined and I was elected to the Board. In 2008, AEC merged with the British Exhibition Contractors Association (BECA) to form a brand new association called ESSA, and I transferred to the ESSA Board which I’m still on today.

What attracted you to becoming a member of the ESSA board?

Initially I joined for the opportunity to be amongst my peers, plus meet and learn from some of the legends of our industry. These days, I’m still learning, but my focus is upon giving back to the industry and the next generation.  

What does a typical month in your role within the ESSA board look like?

My ESSA work is ad hoc such as attending virtual meetings with the association groups I’m involved with on a monthly basis and board meetings quarterly. I also hold the role of Treasurer for the association so get involved in budget discussions and vetting and presenting the numbers at board meetings.

What do you consider to be ESSA’s greatest strength?

It’s voice. In order to make a difference, you have to be at the table, and ESSA has grown stronger and stronger over recent years promoting the interests of our supplier network with organisers and venues, and most recently, with government like never before.

What is your vision for ESSA?

I see ESSA as the standard bearer for the industry. ESSA is leading the charge on standards through the ESSA Accredited scheme whereby in the future, anyone working within the industry will need to be accredited and organisers will only promote ESSA members. That’s a hope and a vision and I genuinely feel that it’s within our grasp.

Can you share the key highlights of your time on the ESSA board?

In 2014 I had the fortune to be elected as Chair of the association. Not only was it a great honour, but I also learnt a huge amount and grew in confidence in my own ability.

How has ESSA evolved since you joined the board?

It has become more diverse in so many ways in terms of the makeup of board members and the diversity of the companies and views on the board. I think that the association mirrors this in terms of the diversity of companies joining the association who want to be part of and contribute to the industry.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in the events industry?

It’s not the sort of industry you can be half in and half out of. It is incredibly intense and pressurised at times – the deadlines don’t flex – but when it all comes together there can very few industries that can offer the feelings of success that you get. You just cannot beat it.

What do you most enjoy doing when you are away from work?

I play doubles tennis very badly once a week with a bunch of friends who are only marginally better than me. We play outside throughout the year, which can be pretty chilly, but the prize is the bar afterwards where we talk rubbish for a few hours. And we have the key so timings can be pretty flexible!



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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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