No doubt 2023 has been an eventful year in lots of ways for members of the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT). It has also been a year when their diaries were literally full of events, too. The Daily Update sat down with IOE&IT’s strategic events manager, Sarah Greenwood, to look back on the last 12 months and look ahead to next year.
The two words Greenwood returns to most often when describing 2023 are “busy” and “varied”; that’s no surprise when you consider the packed programme of events over the last year.
“I don’t think there’s been any downtime this year,” she says.
“There hasn’t been a month when we haven’t had something going on. It’s been quite varied, and we’ve done a lot of stuff we haven’t done before.”
Greenwood highlights the E-Commerce Trade Commission (ECT-C) launch in June and the inaugural Import Export Show (IES) and International Trade Awards (ITAs) as examples of new events. She adds there have also been several events and receptions hosted by IOE&IT in Parliament, as well as a “bigger and better” member conference.
“Membercon went to a whole new level from last year,” she explains.
“There was a second workstream and a lot more content for people, as well as a drinks reception.
“There was also more sponsorship with an impressive calibre of exhibitors. That shows our events are relevant to people and that people want to be involved.”
There was also support for events in Geneva, as part of the WTO’s Public Forum and MSME Day.
Highlights from a busy calendar
Asked to pick out highlights, Greenwood admits the team were particularly pleased with the ECT-C launch.
“It was put together in a short space of time and had some very high-profile partners. We had Kemi Badenoch, secretary of state for business and trade, and exports minister, Lord Offord, there to speak, which was a big highlight.”
And Greenwood again points to MemberCon23.
“I didn’t attend the first Membercon in 2022, because I wasn't here then. But, from what I’ve been told, this was a big step up in venue, format and professionalism.
“That was reflected by the increased delegate numbers and the fact the feedback was excellent. It was a really nice event to do. Liverpool’s one of my favourite cities and the venue [Spaces at the Spine] was amazing.
“We set a very high bar and to be honest I’m now struggling to find somewhere as lovely for next year,” she jokes.
Another highlight was the inaugural IES, an event she describes as being “a lot of hard work”, adding that it required “a big effort from everybody involved”, something that made the positive end result even more satisfying.
“The whole production was very slick, and everything ran well. And we launched new initiatives there, such as our first digital brochure and the audience interactions via Slido.
“We also launched the ITAs at the show, and they seemed to be well received with the winners excited about their award.”
Looking forward to next year
One challenge for all events in 2023 has been a degree of political uncertainty with reshuffles and changing ministerial roles making it harder than usual to secure political keynote speakers.
And 2024 may be even more uncertain, with a potential general election likely at some point next year. But Greenwood says the IOE&IT cornerstone events are already planned.
“We know we’ll be running our ‘hero events’, such as Membercon24 and our graduation ceremony, which this year attracted a record number of participants.
“And, following the success of the first IES, we know that will return next year, again combined with ITAs.”
As to new things to watch out for, Greenwood says IOE&IT is placing greater emphasis on support for members across all of the UK’s nations and regions and will be launching a series of regional events.
“These will be taking the panel discussion format with the chance for networking and an opportunity to meet our trade and customs experts.
“More opportunities for networking is something members consistently ask for in feedback, so we’re going all around the UK with these new events.
“We’ve got locations pencilled in and some dates, which we’ll be releasing information on very soon.”
There will also be a follow-up to the ECT-C launch.
“There’s going to be an event to mark the first anniversary for the ECT-C launch, this time probably an evening event and at around the same time also a summer party for stakeholders and MPs. There are also what Greenwood refers to as ‘interesting developments to watch out for’ that will also involve an event element.”
All in all, Greenwood predicts “another busy year, with perhaps 20% more events than we had this year”.