Interview with VMA CEO, Steve Romer
Q. You recently attended VenueConnect (IAVM’s annual congress) in Nashville, Tennessee and got to catch up with all the latest from International Association of Venue Managers. Firstly, for those who don’t know much about IAVM can you fill us in on a bit of background?
A. The IAVM is the leading global association for venue managers and it has been around for a little over 90 years. Their HQ is based in Dallas, Texas, USA.
The Venue Management Association has been around for 30 years and right from the outset when we formed our association, we modeled it off the IAVM. We’ve had a close relationship with them and signed an affiliation agreement in 2007 that still exists today. We have a place on the IAVM board and contribute to the strategic direction of the association.
The VMA represents around 15% of the overall IAVM membership.
The sort of thing that both associations do really well is that we both believe in and seek to provide professional development and the credibility of professional venue managers. And of course, raising the profile of our Allied members who provide goods and services to the industry.
Feedback from our members is that they love to be able to network and to be educated and professionally recognised, so these are the areas we jointly cooperate on.
We’ve modeled our VMS on the IAVM’s school, of course being sensitive to our cultural differences, but we’re servicing people from the same sectors (Stadiums & Arenas, Conference and Exhibition Centre’s, Performing Arts Centre’s, Race Tracks & Showgrounds). We’ve had a wonderful exchange program with the Venue Management School, where we send an instructor to the VMS in the USA each year, and they send an instructor to our School each November.
VMA members automatically become IAVM members and gain access to all the benefits including voting rights, educational opportunities, professional development opportunities, venue awards and excellence programs, access to VenueNet forum and a copy of the Facility Manager magazine 6 times a year.
IAVM also invest a significant amount into research in areas like the average capital investment into venues, average food and beverage per capita results, merchandise, salaries from General Manager to Supervisors, etc. All members have access to that research and can also participate in it.
Q. Tell us a bit about VenueConnect?
A. VenueConnect is the largest conference for venue professionals in the world. It rotates through North America and was in Nashville, Tennesse this year and will be going back to Canada in 2018 (for the first time in ten years).
Associated with the conference is the largest exhibition of good and services for the industry. From Seating Manufacturers, Turf Consultants, Venue Design Consultants, Food and Beverage, Security, Cleaning…. you name it!
There’s always a small handful of Australian members that attend the IAVM conference. I know one of our Australian members who attended last year made an acquisition of approximately USD $1 million for seats for their venue’s expansion.
Q. What was one of your favourite sessions to be involved with this year?
For many years the VMA Chairman, VMA CEO and VMA Members participate in presentations at VenueConnect. One of IAVM’s big focuses has been on investing in future leaders and young people and a few years ago they started a program called 30 under 30.
That is where they provide 30 free registrations and additional funds to contribute towards airfares to the conference for 30 people that are 30 and under.
The program has matured over the last few years, where there are specific sessions for that group to interact with ‘venue veterans’ as they call us. This year there would’ve been 150 tables of 10 with one or two venue veterans at each table and we would rotate around the room, a bit like a speed dating model.
It was a really enjoyable experience for myself and other senior leaders. They asked all sorts of questions like how did you get started in the industry, what are you looking for in a resume when you’re interviewing people, how do I become noticed, what sort of things have you done in your past to be able to get to where you are now, etc.
We also participate in panels as well. VMA Chair Steve Harper along with VMA Member Guy Hedderwick participated in a panel entitled ‘The Sporting Scene Down Under’. They were able to give North American delegates an insight into how we manage Arena’s and Stadiums and a look at one of our biggest sporting events, the Australian Open.
Q. How has VenueConnect evolved?
A. In the last ten years, they’ve made a great effort to service the four sectors of the venue industry. They used to hold four annual conferences related to those sectors, however, 12 months ago they made a strategic decision to consolidate those conferences back into one which now includes streams for those sectors as part of the daily conference program. As a result, attendance has gone up by 44% and they’ve had incredible delegate feedback.
Q. Where is growth happening for the VMA at the moment?
A. The scope that we’ve been assigned under the IAVM / VMA Affiliation Agreement covers the Asia Pacific. We have responsibility for attracting members from China through to India and everywhere in between. It’s a very wide territory.
IAVM CEO Brad Mayne and I sat down with a group of Taiwanese members to discuss educational opportunities for the future – there is huge potential for growth right across Asia. Our first VMS in Shanghai, China is happening this November and we have only one seat left!