December 8, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio

It’s been another challenging year for business events peak bodies with declining revenues at a time when the members they represent need their services more than ever.

Leadership changes, staffing changes and strategic reviews have been all part of the landscape in 2021.

Like many associations, Meetings and Events Australia (MEA) has a volunteer board that sets the strategic agenda for the organisation.

Several weeks ago, following the Annual General Meeting and Board elections, Michael Firman, General Manager of Exhibitions at Harry the hirer, stepped up to become MEA’s new Chair, replacing Nigel Collin.

micenet spoke with Firman about his new role and his commitment to leaving a legacy. It’s no surprise that Firman is committed, passionate and has his sleeves rolled up ready to make a difference.

Why did you accept role of Chair of MEA?

I wanted to provide some consistency for our members and for the CEO to ensure that the strategic direction of MEA continues to progress the needs of our industry.

I am the longest standing current Board member who has served under the past three Chairs, have been Treasurer and acting CFO through a pandemic [and] recruited a new CEO after having worked along-side the previous CEO.

There’s a lot of knowledge and experience I have gained in that time that enables me to effectively lead the new Board and provide a consistent approach to our strategic direction.

 What do you hope to achieve?

I’ve been actively involved in MEA for 12 years now, on state branch committees and at Board level, because I wanted to give back to the industry. I enjoy sharing the things that I’ve learned in my career and being able to use that knowledge to help others.

The more we can teach the next generation, the better our legacy will be. What I hope to achieve is to leave a better legacy for MEA so that it may provide for others what it has given me, and more.

What are the most critical issues facing MEA – its biggest challenges and opportunities?

It’s a pivotal period for our industry as we come through the pandemic. Some of the critical issues we face are, to a degree, out of our control – government restrictions, border closures, labour shortages [and] cost increases all have an impact on our industry’s ability to rebound.

But ultimately, our industry will rebound and the economy is set to boom, and with any economic rebound there are opportunities.

Like any member association, the opportunities revolve around our members, growing our membership and being able to provide a lead role to advocate for our industry and helping provide confidence and education for our members to leverage the rebound.

How will you differentiate the role of MEA from other associations?

It’s not my focus to differentiate MEA from other associations. Associations exist to serve the specific needs of their community, and each have their place at the grass roots.

But if you were to ask what differentiates the role of MEA for me from other associations, then I would say that MEA is the glue that binds a community of like-minded people who have similar passions and curiosity, a community of people to learn from and share experiences with.

The MEA community is the knowledge centre for delivering world class events in Australia. If you are new to the industry, MEA can link you to industry best practice, industry mentors and industry education.

In particular, MEA is a registered training organisation that delivers a formal accredited tertiary qualification.

What differentiates MEA’s Diploma of Event Management from other tertiary courses is that it offers practical, as opposed to theoretical, learning that can be applied immediately as learned.

That’s because the course is developed and delivered by industry as opposed to career academics.

Being able to develop talent for our industry will be crucial for an industry rebound, and I would rather have my new talent trained by experienced industry experts using real-world scenarios than by an academic in a classroom.

Stay tuned for part two of Michael Firman’s interview in tomorrow’s newsletter.