Study: Attendees Are Looking for More Fun

By Matt Swenson, March 9, 2018

A recent report from The Experience Institute confirms attendees are acting more and more like vacationers.

Working with industry organizations like MPI, DMAI, PCMA and others, The Experience Institute surveyed 8,992 event professionals for “The Decision to Attend Study for Conventions and Exhibitions.”

While education remained the top attendance driver—92 percent deemed it important—destinations and how you market your host city could ultimately be prospective delegates’ deciding factor.

“What we’re trying to get across is that you have to sell the destination,” says The Experience Institute CEO and co-founder Mickey Schaefer, FASAE, CAE, CTA.

Schaefer, the former vice president of meetings and marketing for the American Academy of Family Physicians, says nuanced messaging demonstrates savvy planning. She points to her past experience to make the point that planning teams must work with CVBs and DMOs.

“I knew how to speak to family doctors—what words resonated, what approaches to use,” she says. “Destinations know the same thing—how to sell their destination.”

Because attendees are well-traveled, rotating conference locations piques interests. The study notes the trend bodes well for second- and third-tier markets that attendees may not opt for during strictly personal trips.

“Attendees behaving more like leisure travelers,” notes Schaefer. “My husband has been to San Diego five times. When I have to go there for a meeting, he asks, ‘What’s new?’”

What isn’t new is that content remains king at meetings. Just as when The Experience Institute conducted its initial survey in 2014, speakers and sessions topped the priority list across the board.

“Education is always going to be high because attendees want to stay on top of their industry,” Schaefer says.

Other Findings:

82% of all respondents report they usually prefer to stay in the official hotel.

79% are likely to return for leisure if the destination experience is positive.

56% of all respondents report they normally register 3-6 months prior.

53% of all respondents are likely to extend their stay.

90% report they will tell others (peers, friends, family, etc.) about a positive destination experience.

51% will tell others about a negative destination experience.

42% of all respondents want to socialize via social media when attending, versus 74% who want to connect face-to-face.

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