A new research report, commissioned by ExCeL London – Event with Intent- suggests event organisers need to evolve their offer in line with changing delegate expectations
The business events industry must respond to the changing needs of attendees and organisers post-pandemic, according to Event with Intent, a new report commissioned by ExCeL London.
Following a strong post-pandemic return to in-person events throughout 2023, the research set out to understand more about the key drivers behind event visitor behaviour, and the factors influencing event attendance, with over 300 delegates, event organisers and agencies interviewed.
The report, launched at IBTM in Barcelona this week, calls for the industry to redefine ROI as ‘Return on Intent’ in order to measure and match event demands with outcomes. The research reveals that whilst ‘Bleisure’ opportunities – the combination of business and leisure – are still relevant, delegates are more focused than ever on maximising the business value of events and conferences, and ‘networking is king’ when it comes to the most important reason to attend a live event.
There is also an emerging need for the industry to better recognise and respond to the changing beliefs which delegates have around social and environmental impacts to ensure that the event activity aligns with these new values and intentions.
Summary of findings
The top priority, and where attendees derive the most value, is networking – over 60% cited this as their primary reason for attending
These networking opportunities need to feel organic, authentic and unforced, to ensure a successful event for attendees
The report suggests environmental and social impact is also increasingly important to delegates, scoring 4/5 for importance on average
Venue location is of prime importance, and in particular the travel connections to the venue and destination. 88% of event attendees indicated that this has a high or very high impact on their decision to attend. Cities with an evergreen appeal include those with a universal language, diversity and a high volume of direct flights and public transport links
London came out as the top destination for an event, thanks to its rich cultural heritage, excellent connectivity and transport links, and the fact that as a global business centre it can offer networking and partnership opportunities as well as access to expertise beyond the event itself
Event organisers should think about ways to measure ‘return on intent’. For example, through a post-event survey tracking if attendees feel the event delivered against their decision to attend
Employing behavioural science techniques can better help gauge people’s true reactions to the insights, opportunities and connections on offer at an event. Whilst the practicalities of this must be balanced with commercial reality, it is vital for organisers to show they are listening.
James Rees, Executive Director at ExCeL London, said: “Our report is designed to help the business events industry learn from recent challenges and adapt to the new expectations of delegates and attendees.
“From speaking to a large cross section of delegates, event organisers and agencies, we know that their expectations and feelings about what constitutes a successful event are changing. We need to understand the key drivers – networking stood out as the most important aspect for attendees – and how we measure whether we are delivering on expectations. From using technology and AI to gauge attendee moods in real time, to understanding the importance of maximising networking opportunities, the next step is to incorporate these trends into event curation.”
Dena Lowery, President, Opus Agency adds: “We should be looking more at what we can learn from B2C about the type of experiences people want to have at events. This could include looking at how we use augmented reality or AI to make events experiential.”
On the importance of social and environmental factors on event organisation, Jez Paxman, Strategy Director, Live Union, comments: “One of the main drivers of events being more sustainable comes from attendee expectations. If they don’t agree with what an event is doing in terms of sustainability, then letting the organisers know can be a very powerful statement.”
The overwhelming message throughout the research is that to event with intent is key: significant global, economic and social changes have shaped the industry in recent years, and attendees are becoming more purposeful in their event attendance. Organisers must understand and recognise the motivations of their attendees, and then work with agencies, venues and destinations to deliver on this.
Source: Agencia PR