We're very keen on research here at AEV, because I believe it holds the key to the successful future development of the industry and the venue sector in particular. There's been a paucity of reliable, detailed information about the industry, and when I joined this organisation as director in 2015, I made it a priority to improve the quality and quantity of research data collected by the association and its colleagues in the AEO and ESSA.
We've since launched two research programmes, the Size and Scale index of Events (SASiE) in collaboration with the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) and the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA), and the AEV salary survey. Now in its second year, SASiE is already revealing some interesting information. We're edging towards a situation where there may be more events than venues available to host them, representing an important opportunity for our members. The news from venues has been thick with stories about expansions, new constructions, and new services and features being added to existing venue space.
The value of the SASiE research initiative will only grow. As we build up data, year on year, not only will it allow us to pick out important trends and tendencies, but it will also provide an important benchmark against which venues, organiser and contractors can measure their performance and position over time.
The same is true of the AEV salary survey, for which we have recently begun accepting submissions. Although on a much smaller scale than SASiE, the salary survey also aims to provide solid benchmarks on levels of pay in the sector, enabling venues to, amongst other things, assess their remuneration packages compared to industry averages. Last year we appointed an independent company, Explori, to conduct the salary survey, and as a result we've been able to increase participation compared to when we conduced the research ourselves.
Venues are under pressure from different corners of the industry to extend build-up and breakdown times, whilst meeting and exceeding their occupancy targets and adding more show space to the national total. Reliable, accurate and timely research is going to be pivotal in how venues meet these challenges, and the more members we can convince to join in with their data, the more comprehensive and useful the research will become.
Research can also help venues improve and enhance their offering to exhibitors and organisers, but ultimately its the individual event venue teams that deliver it. This is why we have targeted our annual conference, not at venue CEOs and senior executives, but at event venue teams instead. The feedback from our inaugural conference, at the Business Design Centre last year, confirmed to us that this was the right decision. Our challenge with the conference this year at The Vox, Birmingham on June 29, is to exceed our 89% approval rating amongst delegates and deliver a conference that delivers even more relevant, practical content.
The wellspring of all this activity, the research and the conference, is our working group culture, which is growing stronger with every new member that joins, whether that's an AEV working group or one of our five cross-association groups. These groups embody the purpose and vision of our association, bringing together people from competing businesses to collaborate for the good of the industry as a whole.
In addition to exhorting members to join our research programmes and promoting the AEV conference to event venue teams, I'm determined to increase the number of member venues participating in our working groups. Whilst most of the UK's major venues are represented in the groups. I'd like to see much more participation from newer and smaller venues. Working groups rely on their members contributing the views of their organisation, and the more plurality and variety we have in the groups, the better they will represent the views of the venue sector as a whole.
[this column was original published in Exhibition News, May 2017]