ISES to ILEA – What Do I Think?

What’s In A Name?

This week marks the transition from the International Special Events Society to the International Live Events Association. ISES becomes ILEA. Mission, Vision, and Values have not changed but with as fast and dynamic as the world changes it’s likely that it will continue to adapt to the landscape as well. The reasons for the name change have been spelled out succinctly in this video from International President Jodi Collen, CSEP.

What I would like to express are the reasons why I feel like these words are meaningful and correctly express who we are now and better position us for years to come.


This was not a given. Other associations have found it easier to maintain member benefits and scope by sticking to their respective countries and it works well for them. The reason I can’t wrap my head around anything short of an international scope for this organization is that its goals are not to provide niche education to a segment of the industry but instead to provide the connectivity between disciplines. Initiatives such as the core curriculum, CSEP program, Global Partner Program and the recent Global Summit are all too big to be contained by one country. Even from the perspective of this member, the majority of the business in the first month of Borelli Strategies has come from two different countries outside the US border. For that reason and many others, the “I” was and continues to be my favorite initial.

Live Events

Possibly the most controversial change. For many it comes down to this: “I don’t refer to what I do as Live Events. I understand that statement while I don’t share it. I’ve been referring to this industry in that way for a few years because I often have one foot in the digital and another foot in the “live” when it comes to engagement. I believe “live events” can meaningfully represent a point of distinction for you if you adopt and get behind it (keep in mind this is only the perspective of a member and I’m not speaking on behalf of the association)…


Special Events – The Art and Science of Celebration, by Joe Jeff Goldblatt

Special events as defined by founding ISES President Joe Jeff Goldblatt are a “unique moment in time celebrated with ceremony and ritual to satisfy specific needs.” In this point in the events industry’s history, the threat was legitimacy. What made what event planners did different from the party planners of an era previously more refined and meaningful? Special events were events of merit with purpose. In today’s landscape due to decades of inroads made (and in my opinion, exponential increases in refinement) since the late 80s, our industry is a legitimate one with a voice. The “threat” comes in a form not predicted almost 30 years prior – digital events.

In 2016, a live stream of an event in 360 degrees can be watched through VR glasses from the comfort of your couch. Meetings take place every day on Skype, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts. Networking takes many digital forms on platforms adopted by billions such as Facebook, Twitter and a dozen more. Conversations around topics vital to business can be followed globally through watching hashtags. These were exclusively the domain of events 30 years ago and today they are optionally attended in real life. The idea that the acronym “IRL” exists alone should give you pause. You do not have the luxury to not adopt these platforms because they are not only the future – they are the present.


Video-Conference-skye samsungunpacked_03-1200x800

What does this mean for caterers, DJs, event planners, stage hands, etc.? It means that now more than ever, the virtues of being in-person with others have to be stressed. As much as I utilize, advise on, and execute strategies through digital means, live event engagement is superior. I know this and you know this. The world, however, needs a reminder. Every outlet known to man has ben covering digital engagement platforms for years now and we need to work together to get our story out there as well. I’m no technophobe or luddite. I absolutely believe in the power of digital engagement and make a living from studying and recommending ways to optimally adopt such channels. I also choose to do that business exclusively for the live events industry. The reason is – I believe in-person networking, education, and celebration is superior and made even better through collaborating with digital engagement strategies.

If you aren’t using the phrase “live events” to talk about what you do, reconsider because the distinction is your livelihood.


The next major change to the name is almost as important. The transition from society to association makes sense historically for us because societies are a given. Their aims are general, they are abstract, may or may not be organized and embrace unity and conflict at their very core. Associations are not givens. You can’t help but be part of society but you never have to be a member of an association. Associations work only through cooperation, are more concrete conceptually, are inherently more organized, and exist in potentially transitory ways towards the pursuit of a goal. That this organization went from nomadic (in a manner of speaking) to society to association follows a really logical pattern to me.

International Live Events Association (ILEA)

In 2016, ILEA seems like a deliberate, progressive, and meaningful flag to fly. Like anything, without examining your history, objectively looking at where you are now, and positioning yourself for the future your likelihood for success is greatly diminished. I want to say this in my conclusion – I’m not a “Kool-Aid” drinker. I am 100% invested in our industry first and foremost. How I express that and where I choose to contribute is where I believe I can do the most good towards the efforts of the industry. I believe that this name change is something we can all get behind because tradition won’t pay the bills. This association needs to focus on the challenges we are facing right now and will be facing in the near future. I believe this name is an exciting step in the right direction for everyone in our industry. That’s why this is #MyILEA