A new study out of the U.S. has found that education, staying abreast of new trends, and networking are among the key reasons why people attend meetings and events.

The phase one study was produced by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, the Professional Convention Management Association, and The Experience Institute, and had 7171 responses.

Key drivers in attending events were:

  • Education and staying abreast – Education (program, content, speakers and exhibits) is still a strong attendance driver and should remain a prominent part of the marketing message. Over 90 per cent of respondents report it’s important, regardless of attendance frequency or generation. Keeping up and staying abreast with their professional/industry is an equally important benefit to attending and matters to all generations combined at 91 per cent, with Boomers and Gen Xers rating it the highest.
  • Networking opportunities – Attendees want opportunities to network and make connections. Networking and making connections are important to 75 per cent of all respondents, but most important to Gen Y Millenials at 84 per cent, as they’re building their base of contacts. The fact is that it’s important to over two-thirds of all attendees warrants including it in both promotional messaging and determining how to best facilitate a variety of ways to `get them together’ onsite.
  • Destination/Location – The destination/location is significant. Eighty-two per cent of all respondents report that the destination definitely factors into their decision to attend. In stark contrast, only 57 per cent of the “Always” attendees are influenced by location – they’ll attend wherever. A remarkable 90 per cent of the “Never” and “Occasional” attendees also say the destination matters. Generationally, the location matters slightly more to Pre Boomers who generally have the free will to attend. Write-in comments ran the gamut from destination appeal, to airlift, to drivable distance, to overall cost, to experiencing new places. Knowing that the “Occasionals” and “Nevers” also value education and networking, the destination/location may be the impetus to get them to attend.
  • Social interactions – Attendees socialise, but less so on social media. Beyond networking and making connections, nearly 71 per cent of respondents indicated a strong desire for opportunities for social interaction and discussions while attending. Opportunities to engage with others via social media as a benefit of attending was rated relatively low at 40 per cent Important/Very Important for all respondents combined.
  • Attendees will search local website and social media – Seven in ten respondents will search local websites to see what the destination is about and nearly one-half will search social media and review sites to learn what others are saying about the destination.Other results from the survey included:
  • Attendees turn into leisure travellers, with over one half indicating they would extend their stay or turn their trip into a vacation.
  • Nearly one half will bring someone with them (friend, family, companion).
  • Three-quarters report they will get out and about, with Gen Y Millennials even higher at 85 per cent.
  • If the destination experience is positive, eighty-four per cent are likely to return to attend the same event at that destination, with over three-quarters likely to return to attend a different one.
  • If an event exceeded their expectations, 85 per cent are likely to recommend it to others.
  • If the destination exceeded their expectations, 83 per cent are likely to recommend it to others.
  • Barriers to not attending an event are cost, time and the appeal of the destination or city.
  • Eighty-four per cent of respondents decide to attend an event 2-6 months prior to the event.