Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2023

How to Stop Stressing Out Your Attendees

About three-quarters of the 3,000 event participant respondents of a recent survey said professional events are great learning experiences — in fact, their top reason for attending is professional development. More than 80 percent said they look forward to going to professional events, and around two-thirds consider these meetings to be a perk.

So why do they also say attending professional events stresses them out?

Traveling to and from the event is not always easy, said respondents to the recent Cvent/Edelman study, “Inside the Mind of Event Attendees.” It’s also tough to be away from home and family, and from the work that’s piling up on their desks while they’re out of the office. They feel pressure to justify the cost of attending, both financial and in time out of office, and to find ways to translate what they learn into action once they get back to work. Even deciding which sessions to attend can be a pain point, especially when attendees have to choose between two great-sounding sessions being held simultaneously. And while three-quarters of respondents said networking is a key part of the experience, it also can be stressful to try and find ways to fit it in, especially when they don’t know anyone.

How can you help ease the stress and improve the overall experience? The report offers these strategies:

• Personalize the experience. While all respondents said they would like recommendations tailored to their interests and history, millennials led the pack in wanting a more personalized agenda. In fact, 63 percent said they would like the meeting organizer to recommend sessions based on their interests and past attendance, compared to 59 percent of Gen Xers and 48 percent of baby boomers. Currently, they mainly rely on session descriptions, recommendations from other attendees and who the speaker is when filling out their personal schedules.

All generations said they would also value recommendations of other attendees to connect with, based on their industry and position, as well as pointers toward other events they might find useful to attend. About half would like the meeting organizer to put together a detailed agenda of sessions, meals and social events customized to the attendee’s specific interests and past event attendance. Though not as popular, a “personal concierge service” — to walk them through the entire event process, from registration to post-con — is something 39 percent of millennials, 32 percent of Gen Xers and 17 percent of boomers thought would be useful.

• Make it easy for them to find what they need. One thing they need, as far as you’re concerned, anyway, is to attend your event. Respondents said their top sources of information about events were email, friends and colleagues, company recommendations, and social media.

Once you have them on site, make sure your mobile event app includes features that make the event easy to navigate, such as a complete list of sessions, a schedule tracker, maps and speaker information. Notifications also can help attendees avoid the stress of hurrying to get to a session only to find that the room was changed to one three floors up and on the other side of the convention center.

To help them better use what they learn once they get back to the office, respondents said they appreciate getting event-related content delivered via email prior to and after the event, as well as receiving handouts on site and through the mobile app, and accessing videos of sessions they attended.

For those who are stressed out by the travel aspect, consider offering a virtual attendance option, something that about three-quarters of respondents said they thought would only continue to become more popular in the future.

• Make it easy for them to find who they want to find. A full 63 percent said networking with other attendees is a big part of what makes the event a positive experience, and approximately three-quarters called networking a key part of the professional event experience. It also has lasting effects: one in four U.S. respondents said connections made at an event led to a job offer, and one in seven globally reported meeting a significant other at an event.

But networking also can be stressful, especially for millennials who are just starting to build their professional contact base — 29 percent of millennials reported that networking with other attendees makes them anxious, compared with 22 percent of Gen Xers and 15 percent of boomers. And yet 50 percent of millennials said social events are important, something that 42 percent of Gen Xers and 31 percent of boomers agreed with.

Since networking is both important and anxiety-producing for your younger attendees, consider ramping up your efforts to make them feel welcome, from offering formal mentoring programs to first-timer orientation sessions to easy ice-breakers and social objects that give everyone something to talk about.

Download the complete report here. — Sue Pelletier

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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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