With more than 10 years of dedicated service to the Exhibition Services and Contractors Association (ESCA), 12 years with GES and five years with Four Seasons Hotels, Julie Kagy deeply understands the challenges and opportunities facing our industry. As ESCA Director of Operations, Kagy focuses on enhancing the value proposition for ESCA's membership, growing the organization's presence and authority in the industry and streamlining operations to drive efficiency and financial success.
What Exhibit Managers and Show Organizers Need to Know About the ESCA Badge
I can’t believe it's been more than 20 years since I stumbled into this industry. I had no idea what I was getting into. I remember feeling like I'd joined the circus – moving from city to city, building events and tearing them down and creating amazing, unique experiences for the guests. I've traveled all over the U.S., and every time I tell people what I do for a living, they assume I've seen so much of this country. But the truth is, my pictures are inside venues, my memories are on the show floor, and my traveling companions are mostly my industry peers.
One of my most vivid memories from those early days is packing for trips and grabbing my trusty ring clip, which held all my ID and access cards. Every office, venue and event had its own unique card — usually complete with a terrible picture of me. (And if you know me, you know just how bad those pictures are – it’s my weird superpower!) They were my Rolodex of cards that said I was approved to be there as part of the behind-the-scenes team. I belonged! Without that ring, I would be stuck outside of an office or in security — just trying to get to work.
I wasn't alone in this struggle. Years ago, long before my time with the Exhibition Services and Contractors Association (ESCA), the association recognized the need for a better solution. ESCA created the Worker Identification & Security Program, or as it's more commonly called now, the ESCA Badge. The program's intent was to provide a consistent process to vet companies in our industry and provide their employees with photo ID badges, which could be used nationwide and recognized as the standard on the show floor.
The program started small but has since evolved. The badge is now required in dozens of venues nationwide and accepted in many others. Here’s a link to the current list of venues that participate in the program.
It's important to note that the ESCA Badge is not for attendees or exhibitors. It's for labor unions, service providers and vendors who consistently work behind the scenes. As an exhibit manager or show organizer, you can look for the visible recognition of the ESCA Badge to know that a person is in fact in our industry. In many venues, they also scan the badges to determine if they've been called to work that day.
Since the pandemic, a lot has changed, including in the venue security world. Resources were reallocated, and the focus shifted to health-related security issues, straying away from building security.
With the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, we've refocused the ESCA Badge program in 2023. We've even given it a refresh, leaning into the name that's most commonly used across the country – The ESCA Badge. We've reached out to our existing venues, asking them to redouble their security efforts and ensure that all persons in their buildings are fully vetted and badged. We're also working to continue the rollout of the ESCA Badge to more venues across the country.
Our goal is for the ESCA Badge to become the "one badge to rule them all" (shoutout to my Lord of the Rings friends!). We want to enhance security measures, track safety training and control on the show floor to make it easier for our industry to move around the country in a safe work environment. As a not-for-profit organization, ESCA exists for the good of our industry and our membership, and we strongly believe in keeping both safe.
We're calling on all venues to explore their access process and consider adapting a program that already has tens of thousands of industry professionals badged. We're also asking show organizers to work with venues to help secure events, attendees, exhibitors and those of us who make it happen.
I'm proud to be part of an industry that puts safety and security first, and I hope you'll join us in supporting the ESCA Badge program. Here's to seeing all of you, my traveling companions, down the road, in all those cities, at all those venues and at all those amazing events!