Helen Hastie, member development manager at the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) reflects on last week’s membership conference, MemberCon23.
“They say that sometimes it is better to quit while you are ahead, or to leave on a high. After our inaugural conference last year in Birmingham, there was part of me that wanted to take that advice to heart. MemberCon22 had been such a huge hit and while members fed back with lots of suggested improvements, the overall sense had been of members having positive reactions.
“Our challenge this year was not to quit while we were winning, but to create something even bigger and better. We also wanted something that responded to our members feedback and in particular their desire to leave the event with something tangible; some new knowledge or insight that would help them in their business and career.
A practical focus
“This led us to the event’s strapline of ‘Get Your Trade Moving’. There was a deliberately practical focus aimed at helping members realise their trade ambitions. After the keynote welcome addresses from local MP Dan Carden, export minister Lord Offord and Kelly Rawles, IOE&IT’s chief operating officer, a series of panel sessions explored in detail some of the most pressing issues in global trade.
“There was a session on making the most of our post-Brexit trade deals, another on the UK’s new freeports – with great participation from people closely involved in the practicalities of life at Liverpool City Region Freeport – as well as sessions on managing the cost of international trade.
I was delighted to host a panel with a group of members, all recognized trade champions, talking about the essential steps they had taken to succeed in the world of global trade. With household names like Tracklements and Nairn’s Oatcakes on the panel, as well as food ingredients business Cambridge Commodities, the insights it delivered were fascinating to hear. You can read more from this panel in this month’s Member Monthly newsletter, which is out on Friday (14 July).
Two brilliant workstreams
“MemberCon23 was the first IOE&IT event to have had two workstreams. Noting that feedback from members following MemberCon22, that they wanted a more practical conference, we ran a series of ‘Ask the Experts’ clinics. These sessions allowed delegates to get in front of our customs and trade experts and ask them questions on the trade issues and challenges they’re encountering. These ranged from sessions on export controls to incoterms and the UK’s new Border Target Operating Model.
“I’m delighted that this workstream was well-attended throughout the day. There was a constant stream of questions through each session. A big thanks to Will Barns-Graham, who hosted the sessions and especially to our experts – Matt Vick and Samantha Hodgkins. They were brilliant on stage, providing practical guidance in response to the questions posed.
“In both workstreams there was lots of evidence of the ways IOE&IT members want to help each other. One of the key takeaways from the day was the invaluable resource that fellow members and other trading businesses can offer when it comes to experiencing difficulties in trade or when you are considering a move into a new market. It was lovely to see delegates responding to each other’s queries and concerns. There was a collegiate and collaborative spirit in both rooms, making them more like conversations than Q&As.
“As we leave MemberCon23 behind, this time there is no thought of quitting while we’re ahead. We’re already pushing on with plans for MemberCon24, which we hope will be bigger and better again. You can register your interest here and I look forward to seeing you there.”