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Event Horizon: Episode 8 – Updated Event Attendee Sentiments

By Parul Shah


Hello and Welcome to Event Horizon. I’m Parul Shah.

Today I want to give you a brief update on findings from wave three of the attendee pulse survey. If we look at the most recent data and compare it to the previous two pulses, the trend data shows that although the pandemic’s impact has varied across regions, attendee optimism remains muted as the pandemic wears on.

We’re well into the summer and, quite frankly, almost to the end of the year. And in this latest study, the results offer a realistic yet sobering view for the remainder of 2020, as well as 2021, in terms of when attendees expect to return to live events and which factors are most influential to their decision to attend.

So let’s take the next five minutes to understand what we can expect of our attendees and what concerns they have. As always, our goal is to share these insights to enable you to be able to make more informed decisions based on what makes sense for your organization and audiences. These insights might reinforce what you already know or validate what you are thinking. In any case, our Data Solutions team will continue with this research until we stop seeing changes in the data.

Let’s get started.

First, as you see here in the chart, the attendee confidence index has slightly decreased since the previous two waves. We can attribute this decline to the fact that there is still so much uncertainty. That uncertainty stems from worrying about others who fail to comply with safety and health guidelines to a viable vaccine and treatment options. Attendees are juggling a lot of information, trying to understand its impact, which is ultimately making it difficult for them to make confident decisions.

Next, let’s take a look at the updated time frame for attending in-person events. This is a tough pill to swallow. In this chart, if we zero in on Spring 2021, we see a double-digit drop. In June, 71% of the attendees were expected to attend in-person events. In our latest wave, however, that number drops to 53%. And while we do see the numbers increase for late next year, honestly, I think we need to take this month by month. The capacity for live events to recover and re-surge depends on how well the pandemic can be contained, controlled, treated, and ultimately prevented. Until we have more concrete information on a vaccine, we can expect this graph to continue to shift each wave.

What this means for event professionals is that, between now and next spring, you should be planning for a full virtual meeting first. Then , between spring through summer, planning should take an integrated approach with both virtual and a smaller-scale in-person meeting. And then perhaps closer to Fall 2021 is when you can start ramping up a larger in-person event — BUT again, this is all heavily dependent upon how the graph continues to shift based on vaccine updates.

Regardless of where we land in the shift, it’s imperative that you rethink your business model and models of engagement at least until the end of 2021. Don’t think of virtual events as a band-aid or temporary solution. Coming out of this you need to redefine your event value proposition for live and online, think about ways to monetize across the different channels and establish an operating model that is both sustainable and scalable for the future.

Now let’s turn our attention towards the factors keeping attendees from attending live events. As you see here on this table, the top 5 reasons are related to health and safety — no surprise here. We see with each wave, business and economic factors have less influence on their decision-making compared to safety factors. Let me also point out that in the previous wave vaccine or treatment was number one, whereas now while a vaccine is still critical, attendees are really concerned with others who fail to follow safety guidelines.

And just so I’m not always seen as the person with bad or sobering news, I want to end on a high note and mention that the likelihood of attending in-person events when the threat of COVID is under control is increasing. As you can see here, since May we’ve seen an 8% increase in the likelihood to attend in-person events when the pandemic is under control. The further people have been away from events seems the more eager they are to return to them, which we all know is a really good sign. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right? Yes, we need to overcome some barriers before we are there, but this trend is reassuring for our industry.

That’s all I have for today. Next episode, I’ll share findings from our latest exhibitor pulse study that we conducted. Thanks for joining me today and be sure to visit our website for all the latest episodes and research.

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