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Chart of the week: what’s driving delegates to return to live events?

More than 90% of attendees say the biggest thing they miss about in-person shows are human elements like networking and face-to-face meetups, according to a new survey.

Findings from the research suggest this is top reason – at 93% – for delegates to return to in-person meetings again amid the live events comeback.

Bramcote International and the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) surveyed 350 association attendees to assess their confidence in returning to live events.

Another noteworthy stat is the increased optimism around vaccination.

While 47% of the respondents said they are keen to attend live events again, this number jumped to 75% if the individual was fully vaccinated.

A majority of 70% delegates were also confident about attending their next meetup before March 2022 – indicating growing confidence in attending future events.

What’s behind the figures?

People are craving the human touch after months of endless online connections and meetings.

Their confidence in returning to live events is buoyed by vaccination rollouts and safety measures at venues. 

ABPCO’s association director Heather Lishman said: “The results clearly show that conference attendees miss the personal elements of a conference – although they recognise that digital platforms offer highly capable opportunities to share knowledge and learn, it is the human interaction they miss the most – with only 15% saying they do not wish to attend an in-person event for the foreseeable future.”

However, they are also cautious about the risk of infection.

A total 71% of the respondents said they want flexible cancellation terms for registration fees if unable to attend due to Covid-19.   

What does it mean for event organisers?

It’s clear our industry landscape will see a much-needed return to in-person events.

Organisers will focus on creating ‘safe experiences’ for live meetings with all safety checks in place to boost attendee confidence.

Meanwhile, virtual components will remain an option for those who are unable to attend in person – whether due to travel problems, pandemic fears or other reasons.

There is also a wealth of opportunities to improve the in-person through the digital transformation of our industry.

These findings come after a previous survey showed associations membership had dropped 47% annually in 2021. 

James Hampton, MCI UK director of operations,  told ExpoPlatform organisers are going to “design events in a very different way in the future from what they’ve been before, because attendee behaviours have changed”.

Here are three points organisers need to keep in mind while designing future association events:

1. Ensure a unique attendee experience for both live and digital

Pay as much attention to the virtual part as to the live. Personalise the digital journey at all possible touchpoints to create an engagement-driven experience. Have a separate team to attend the needs of virtual attendees. If you are understaffed, keep the physical and online experiences at different times.  

2. Keep virtual attendance fee less

A live event is all about moments and making connections. In comparison, virtual events are more about getting direct value through content, training and networking opportunities. Since online attendees miss out on the invaluable ‘human’ experience, it makes sense to price it lower than the physical event.

3. Build 365 community to keep the engagement going

Organisers can use 365 community solutions to provide members an ‘always connected’ experience. Build an active community that allows users to engage and network all year round. Nurture and grow it with announcements, new content, giveaways, referral programmes and more.

Learn how association events platforms can help drive membership and increase revenue.