HQ interviewed Jennifer Trethewey, CSEP and president of the International Live Events Association (ILEA) board of governors from 2019 to 2020. ILEA advances the live events industry by creating an inclusive global community dedicated to personal and business development, and inspiration to elevate all professionals engaged in live events. All live events are delivered through intentional design by recognized professionals. ILEA’s values are truths they stand for: creativity, inspiration, teamwork, education and relationships.
You are devoted to the business development and professional certification in the live events sector, fostering the creation of an inclusive global community. Can you tell us more about the association’s daily work, identity and membership?
ILEA is the essential community for live events professionals around the world. Our members include event planners, producers, caterers, meeting planners, decorators, audiovisual technicians, convention coordinators, entertainers, educators, photographers, hotel sales managers, and more — all dedicated to producing events that bring people together.
In the midst of a health crisis that paralysed much of the events sector and made live meetings almost impossible, what do you think of the scenario that lies ahead and the digital alternative post COVID-19?
I think we will see more and more ‘hybrid’ events — combining digital and face-to-face elements — and they will become the norm. I am not saying that they will replace live in-person events, because nothing could ever replace the emotion, exhilaration, experience of face-to-face human interaction. But hybrid is here to stay.
From the point of view of your trade association, how do you create a strong, strategic brand identity that allows associations to increase their impact in this sector?
We create a strong brand identity by understanding that our brand is our mission and our mission is our method. Simply put: ILEA serves the live events industry, which brings people together, by bringing our members together. Sometimes that’s in person, at our ILEA Live annual conference and many local chapter events. Other times it’s online, through webinars. And sometimes it’s through programs like the CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional) designation that unites the industry via a standard of professional excellence. But the key is always to remember that our brand identity is rooted in connecting our community.
How would you rate the following terms in order of importance to build a successful live event: education, expertise, risk, anticipation?
Content is always king, but otherwise, how you rank these factors depends on what type of live event you are focusing on. If it’s conferencing, then relevant and targeted education that offers attendees a robust program around personal development in an ‘un-conference’ environment is at the forefront. For festivals and live entertainment, risk and occupational health & safety alongside credible operators are by far the most important elements. Then, anticipation and expertise factor into just about every live event. Anticipation is generated by offering innovative and thought-provoking content, delivered by articulate and engaging subject-matter experts. The world has changed exponentially. Delegates are incredibly discerning. They demand trend forecasting, thought leadership, and the latest technology delivered in a totally unconventional way, with collaboration, inclusion, and innovation. They drive the agenda to bring authenticity and an inimitable experience to everyone who takes part. This is the future of face-to-face.
During this period of great uncertainty, does ILEA lean on a ‘return to a new normal’ or rather a ‘paradigm shift’? Is there a possible middle ground for the MICE industry?
Change is constant and non-negotiable. Businesses in every industry everywhere in the world should continually look for ways to improve, to keep ahead of the competition, to seek out that one thing that nobody else has or can get. That said, COVID-19 is like nothing any of us has ever experienced. It has been devastating for the live events industry and it’s my belief that we will never settle into a new normal. So how do we find opportunity out of adversity? By forging ahead in collaboration. ILEA works in partnership with many other organisations to benefit our members and extend our impact. No longer can the individual groups in our industry go alone: we must be willing to share, collaborate and partner to benefit the industry holistically.
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Caption: Jennifer Trethewey
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