Maximizing Attendance

Why do people go to meetings and conventions?

It’s a simple-seeming question that likely has no one, simple answer. And it’s led PCMA, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, and The EXPERIENCE Institute to partner on The Decision to Attend Study, which aims to explore “the myriad behavioral and societal factors that comprise the reasons individuals decide to attend — or not attend — conventions and exhibitions.” The idea is to go beyond the traditional “group profile” by gaining deeper insights into attendees’ needs and preferences.

Phase One of the study, which drew more than 7,100 responses from members of 10 different associations serving a wide range of industries, is now available. Phase Two will continue throughout 2015, gathering input from both sides of the industry — meeting and exhibition professionals, and DMOs and other suppliers — through chapter programs, surveys, sessions, articles, and webinars. The goal is to develop a behavioral profile that meeting professionals can use as part of site selection, promotional strategies, and targeted messaging — all to help maximize attendance.

Here are key findings from Phase One:

Propensity to Attend

Most If Not All 92% of all respondents — and 94% of Gen X and Gen Y respondents — are likely to attend conventions/exhibitions.

Still POPULAR More than two thirds are attending more or about the same number of meetings as they were previously.

Attendance Drivers

EDUCATION 95% of respondents indicate that education and content matter.

KEEPING UP 91% of all respondents say that keeping up with their industry is an important reason for attending meetings.

82% report that a meeting’s destination factors into their decision to attend.

NETWORKING 75% of all respondents — and 84% of Gen X respondents — consider networking and making connections important.

SOCIALIZING 72% indicate a strong desire for opportunities for social interaction and discussion.

SOCIAL MEDIA Only 40% consider opportunities to engage with other attendees via social media an important or very important benefit
of attending.

Attendees as Consumers

STAY A WHILE More than half of respondents say they’re likely to extend their stay in a meeting destination or turn their visit into a vacation.

PLUS ONE Nearly half will likely bring someone with them.

ROAMING 76% of all respondents — and 85% of Gen Y respondents — like to get “out and about” in the destination.

DÉJÀ VU 84% of respondents would return to the same meeting in the same destination if they had a positive experience the first time, while 78% would return for a different meeting.

REPEAT BUSINESS More than 75% would return to a destination for a leisure visit if they had a positive experience during a meeting held there. Only 4% would do so if they had a negative experience.

WORD OF MOUTH 85% of respondents are likely to recommend a meeting to others — and 83% a destination — if it met or exceeded their expectations.

TALK TALK TALK More than 90% consider a face-to-face conversation the ideal method for communicating a positive or negative experience, with email, Facebook, phone, and text also ranking in the top five.

SURVEY SAYS More than 80% of respondents say they’d be likely to provide feedback on the meeting or destination experience through a mobile or online survey if it were quick and easy.

75% consider these things important or very important to the destination experience, in descending order: transportation options; safe; clean; wayfinding; welcoming/friendly; service-oriented; and variety of things to see and do.

BORN TO RUN 87% say they’d take two to four trips a year if time and money were no object.

EXPERIENCED More than 60% of respondents consider themselves “expert” or “seasoned” travelers who are able to “navigate just about anything.”

The Decision Process

YES OR NO Nearly 75% of respondents are responsible for making the decision to attend.

GETTING IN THE WAY 61% say cost is the highest barrier to attending, while 41% say it’s “difficult to get away” to attend a meeting.

DEAL SWEETENERS To help convince those who don’t attend every year, 60% of respondents want “some type of discount or subsidy to help defray costs,” while 37% are looking for “a destination/city I want to visit.”

HOLDING OUT Only 8% say nothing could convince them to attend.

THE SPIRIT IS WILLING If circumstances allowed, 65% of all respondents would attend more often — with Gen Y at 79%, Gen X at 71%,
Baby Boomers at 63%, and pre-Boomers at 46%.

84% of respondents make the decision to attend two to six months before a meeting.

AROUND THE BLOCK 80% prefer to stay in one of the official meeting hotels.

Convene Editors