The business events industry must respond to the changing needs of attendees and organizers post-pandemic, according to Event with Intent, a new report commissioned by ExCeL London.
Following a strong post-pandemic return to in-person events throughout 2023, the research set out to understand more about the key drivers behind event visitor behavior, and the factors influencing event attendance, with over 300 delegates, event organizers, and agencies interviewed.
The report, launched at IBTM in Barcelona this week, calls for the industry to redefine ROI as ‘Return on Intent’ in order to measure and match event demands with outcomes. The research reveals that whilst ‘Bleisure’ opportunities – the combination of business and leisure – are still relevant, delegates are more focused than ever on maximizing the business value of events and conferences, and ‘networking is king’ when it comes to the most important reason to attend a live event.
There is also an emerging need for the industry to better recognize and respond to the changing beliefs that delegates have around social and environmental impacts to ensure that the event activity aligns with these new values and intentions.
James Rees, Executive Director at ExCeL London, said: “Our report is designed to help the business events industry learn from recent challenges and adapt to the new expectations of delegates and attendees.
“From speaking to a large cross-section of delegates, event organizers, and agencies, we know that their expectations and feelings about what constitutes a successful event are changing. We need to understand the key drivers – networking stood out as the most important aspect for attendees – and how we measure whether we are delivering on expectations. From using technology and AI to gauge attendee moods in real-time, to understanding the importance of maximizing networking opportunities, the next step is to incorporate these trends into event curation.”
Dena Lowery, President, of Opus Agency adds: “We should be looking more at what we can learn from B2C about the type of experiences people want to have at events. This could include looking at how we use augmented reality or AI to make events experiential.”
On the importance of social and environmental factors on event organization, Jez Paxman, Strategy Director, Live Union, comments: “One of the main drivers of events being more sustainable comes from attendee expectations. If they don’t agree with what an event is doing in terms of sustainability, then letting the organizers know can be a very powerful statement.”
The overwhelming message throughout the research is that to event with intent is key: significant global, economic, and social changes have shaped the industry in recent years, and attendees are becoming more purposeful in their event attendance. Organizers must understand and recognize the motivations of their attendees, and then work with agencies, venues, and destinations to deliver on this.