On Thursday, April 20th, Julius Solaris and Dan Assor held a live discussion with industry leaders to dive into “the in-person event boom,” marked by the 5th acquisition in a month.
In-person events are crucial for building trust, especially now
The conversation centred around the crucial role events have in building trust, and the industry’s perhaps underestimated, but welcome, comeback post-pandemic. “It’s really about the humanness of it all,” said Jessica Blue, EVP at Emerald.
The audience joined in with enthusiasm, with a comment from Nicole B. reading, “People who WFH are eager to get out and network as much as they can at these events as they're missing in-person office interactions. So happy in-person events are making this comeback!”
Specifics in rising attendance
Paul Miller, CEO at Questex, observed one specific way attendance has changed. Not only have attendance rates risen healthily, the number of qualified attendees has — leading to better business outcomes for everyone.
Having people attend events again wasn’t a given, they say, it’s been earned by intentionally thinking about what will make people want to come back.
On the challenge that longer timeframes for registration have been posing, it’s something planners are having to get used to.
Research has shown that “50% or more are registering in the last month,” recalls Jessica Blue, “which when it comes to planning for F&B, planning for your reg. counters, planning for your reg. staff, is something that we just have to adapt to. I don’t think it’s going to change, I think Covid changed behaviour. And wasn’t it great to know how many people were coming so far out in the past? I don’t think we ever really appreciated that. Now we don’t have it, and we have to work with it.”
Challenges and opportunities
A challenge to content, and an opportunity for events, the avalanche of AI-generated content is leading people to seek out sources of information that feel more personal. Coming from a Freeman report: Attendees rank in-person events as the most trustworthy.
This is cause for celebration, says Dan Assor: “Why are people coming back to events? Because we put on great events. There’s a reason that people want to attend these things, whether it’s the content, the exhibitors, the networking.”
In a similar vein, Paul Miller inadvertently coined the term ROT, Return on Time, emphasizing the importance of making events worthwhile for participants.
— working with the destination is very important to ensure the entire experience is smooth for attendees, from various venues to travel and other touch points in the destination
— the value of networking has leaned into creating personal networks
— people want to interact with experts on 1:1 or in smaller groups
— as of last year, exhibitors are now looking for more lead-generation opportunities
— create micro experiences in a macro event
— keep a pulse on what the younger generation wants
A new generation of attendees
Notably, Miller touched on how approximately 50% of workers over the age of (55) retired during the pandemic. “So we have to start looking at the next generation, and their expectations are very different,” he said.
“Younger people expect more curation of their experience, and therefore I think the two things together are going to really push us to use the technology much more aggressively to make it a better, curated networking experience,” Miller explained.
When it comes to event tech…
Julius Solaris elaborated on the role of event tech, “We tend to think that technology for events is dead when we think in terms of virtual events. It’s probably not doing super well, but on the other hand, we have the +$4 billion acquisition of Cvent and three other acquisitions of in-person-specific technology happening there. There’s almost no company left to buy in in-person. But there’s a lot of interest from investors in that sense.”
Blue commented on this as well, “Firstly, it shows the vibrancy and how we’re thriving as an industry. I mean, you don’t see this kind of activity unless there’s really good stuff going on.”
Will the success last? Leaders say ‘Yes!’
A question came from the audience concerning the not-so-far future: “It makes me wonder if we'll hit a tipping point in late Q4 2023, or early 2024. Economy, supply chain issues, inflation, etc. There's excitement now with themes of “we're back in person” but makes me wonder/worry about the future,” wrote Amanda Miller.
To which Blue eased potential worries as to whether or not the success will last, “I think it will. I think that we’ve just come out of the worst thing that the events industry has ever experienced. We’ve just come out of zero revenue. … If we can come out of that, and come back like this — we all have to be realistic about the challenges around us, but we do remain very optimistic. I think what’s important is that we have to continue to deliver on that ROI if it’s going to last. And the expectations of our customers are high, they’re higher than they were perhaps before the pandemic.”
However, Blue brought it back to the trust factor: “75% of people are ranking in-person events as their most trusted source of information. And that is incredible. It’s higher than academic institutions, it’s higher than media, it’s higher than online, it’s higher than anything. So if we are that trusted resource, we are in good shape.”
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