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INDUSTRY 37RECESSION, RIOTS AND THE RESURGENCE OF THE AEVAEV's outgoing chair Graham Stephenson shares his impression of how the exhibition industry has developed during his tenure and why collaboration is more important than everhave been very fortunate to hold the position of chair for the AEV during the past two years. My term of offi ce will have ended by the time you read this article. They have been equally challenging and exciting times. We have the Olympic Games almost upon us; the single biggest event to take place in the UK. It is one most of us will remember and opens business opportunities we are all seeking to embrace. From conversations within the AEV, we seem to have been very successful securing Olympic events for many of our member venues throughout the UK. Yet we have also seen the challenges of civil unrest in many of our major cities. This has gone hand-in-hand with a deepening recession and widespread spending cuts. All of this will, no doubt, have an effect upon the industry in some form or other. They make uncomfortable bedfellows at a time when we will be the focus of attention on a global scale.But crucially for the AEV, it is how the association used its resources and member commitment to deliver key benefi ts for members throughout these times that has shone through. When I began my tenure, the board took the decision to go 'back to basics'. We looked at what we delivered and greater steps forward and more quickly than if they acted alone. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the cross-association technical committees where collaboration has been sought to grapple with the ever-complex electrical issues. Our most recently formed working group for instance is looking at Wi-Fi connectivity at exhibitions and how the industry can collectively overcome shortfalls in this area.In addition, having an association security working group has never been more relevant. With the Olympics drawing near, the eyes of the world will be focused on this country and its event venues and health and safety must be of the utmost standard. To have a platform allowing venues to address issues of day-to-day security as well as larger scale one-off events provides great comfort when the need arises. The group is well connected into the appropriate channels. The AEV is in a strong position with record levels of engagement and participation. Being chair has been a challenging role but it's also been fun, engaging and full of great people. I pass on the role to The NEC's MD Kathryn James with confi dence we will continue to go from strength to strength.IStronger collaboration enables AEV members to take greater steps forwardwhat the members valued then focused on doing more of the same.The 'basics' we performed well were twofold: Saving members time and money, and generating a sense of community for the UK event venues and with our sister associations the AEO and ESSA. These have remained our primary drivers and the engagement from members has proven the decision to sharpen our focus on both correct.Another area of achievement is discussion. In 2008, the AEV was running three working groups that met fi ve times annually and engaged 58 individuals from member venues. There are now double the number of working groups in place. These have met 13 times so far this year with 168 individuals participating. This participation has been UK-wide following our decision to hold various meetings and groups at venues across the country - something that's especially important when we are being looked at collectively in light of the Olympics.Saving time and money has never been more important to all organisations than in economic times such as these. With shared knowledge and best practices, we can help reduce costs. Having stronger collaboration has enabled AEV members to take