Meeting Mentor Magazine

September 2023

'Decision to Attend' Study

Good Experiences At Meetings
Do Improve Attendance Outlook

Here are three ways show organizers can impact the future success of their meetings and exhibitions:
1. Help younger generations bridge the gap now between their desire and ability (cost and time) to attend.
2. Get them to attend earlier in their career, which will lead them to attend more often.
3. Provide future dates and locations even earlier to help with budgeting and pre-approval.

These come from the Phase One report of a new study that delves deeply into the psyches of 7,171 respondents in making the decision to attend meetings. Here’s more about the impact of the destination:
• If the destination experience is positive, 84% are likely to return to attend the same meeting/convention/expo at that destination, and more than 75% are likely to attend a different meeting at that destination.
• The destination factors into the decision to attend for 82%.
• 50% said they would be likely to extend their stay or turn their trip into a vacation.
• 50% are likely to bring family, friend or a companion with them.
• 75% will likely get “out and about” while they’re in the destination.
• 80% will likely recommend the destination and convention or exhibition to others if the experience met or exceeded expectations.

All of these would result in more room nights and more overall spend, according to The Decision to Attend Study for Conventions & Exhibitions, a collaboration of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, the Professional Convention Management Association and The Experience Institute, with sponsor support from a host of destinations across the United States.

Other key findings:
• Continuing personal or professional education is a strong reason to attend for even “occasional” attendees.
Networking and making connections was important to more than three-quarters of attendees, but even more important to 84% of Gen Y Millennials.
• “The ‘peak night’ room block metric needs to evolve beyond ‘heads in beds’ to a new metric that values…their ‘overall spend’” at the destination, the report suggested, because attendees are likely to extend their stay and bring others with them.
• If a convention/exhibition met or exceeded expectation, 85% are likely to recommend it to others, and two-thirds “very likely” to do so.
• For one-quarter of respondents, a boss or “higher up” makes the decision to attend; the number is even higher at 35% for Gen X and Gen Y attendees.
• Key barriers to attending: Cost (61% of respondents) and time (41%) — a discount or subsidy would convince many to attend.
• 84% decide to attend two to six months prior.
• 80% prefer to stay in official hotels, but 17% are unlikely to do so. Higher percentages of Gen Y Millennials go outside the block.
• Seven in 10 attendees will search local websites about the destination, and nearly one-half search social media and review sites to learn about the destination experience.
• 90% will tell others if the destination experience is positive, while 54% will do so if it’s negative. As for social network communication about their experience, Facebook rated highest at 45% for all, but Twitter was the choice of 61 percent of Gen Y Millennials.

The study’s planned Phase Two will identify a methodology that can monitor trends over time. The study is available for download at IAEE, PCMA and The Experience Institute. — Maxine Golding

The study demographics:
Surveys were sent to meeting attendees by 10 associations in different industries and professions; 7,171 responded. Those who attend “Always” — 20.6%; “Frequents” who attend every two to five years — 30%; “Occasionals,” who attend every six to 10 years — 23.2%; and “Nevers” — 22.9 % who have never attended and 3.3% who no longer attend.
Pre-Boomers 9.3%; Boomers 53%; Gen Xers 26.7%; Gen Y/Millennials, 11%.

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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