New Decision-to-Attend Study and Toolkit Launched to Maximize Meeting Attendance Industry-wide

November 6, 2017

“Maximizing Attendance” is a new meetings industry collaborative research effort that builds on the Decision to Attend Study, analyzing event attendee behavior and the factors that influence their choices of meetings, events and exhibitions.

The initiative is led by six industry-leading organizations: The EXPERIENCE Institute (TEI), the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), Meetings Professionals International (MPI), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and Destinations International.

The vision of this ongoing research study is for industry stakeholders to work together to develop new industry-wide strategies designed to maximize attendance.

“This research is critical to understanding the various needs of attendees and their process for determining whether to attend a meeting,” said Paul Van Deventer, MPI president and CEO.

He added, “We believe the planner segment of our global community will find this information invaluable as they develop strategies for the meetings and events they plan.”

The Decision to Attend Study – Phase One was published in January 2015. It polled 7,171 prospective or current event attendees, and found the top three drivers for event participation were education, destination and networking.

The recent data gathered and published in the second Decision to Attend Study (DTA2) supports these findings, with attendees selecting education to lead the pack at 92 percent, destination weighing in at 78 percent and networking a close third at 76 percent.

The new report provides insight from a second survey conducted in 2017 along with comparisons to the previous study results. Comprising 8,992 responses, the survey examined the reasons individuals chose to attend or not attend conventions and exhibitions held by 12 different organizations representing a wide variety of professions and industries.

The study provides insights into generational differences, attendance frequency, barriers to attendance and the intention to return.

"This study continues to prove that today's attendees are seasoned, discerning consumers," said Mickey Schaefer, founder and CEO of TEI.

He continued, "Yet, the true group profile of what attendees do 'outside the walls' of the event remains elusive. The vision is to maximize attendance by identifying the nuances of each group in order to match attendees to their preferred environment – an environment where they will thrive, talk about it and decide to return."

The study reaffirmed that the attendee experience at both the event and within the destination matters now more than ever before. Nine out of 10 respondents indicated a strong propensity to continue their personal and/or professional education, with Millennials leading the charge. This is good news for the industry, at it shows that there is still a demand for face-to-face meetings.

“The latest Decision to Attend Study research confirms that content and meeting location are the top two drivers for people in deciding whether to attend a meeting, but it also highlights how attendees have higher expectations and desire new experiences,” said John H. Graham IV, ASAE president and CEO.

He added, “It’s critical for learning, meetings and communication teams to work together and develop new content, experiences and engagement strategies, so members are motivated to attend and return to your events.”

The study also revealed that one-half of visitors are likely to bring others or extend their stay, adding to the event and destination revenue streams through more room nights and a higher amount of overall spend. The better the experience attendees have, the more likely they are to return and to recommend the event and destination to others.

Throughout Phase One (2014-2016) of the study, meetings and exhibition professionals worked with convention and visitors bureaus to generate tools and ideas for future development.

“When CVBs and planners can partner to align their attendance promotion efforts to showcase the destination and excite attendees, the meeting experience is greatly enhanced,” explained Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International.

A full toolkit has been created around the study to further the Maximizing Attendance initiative, including a Behavioral Profile Template and a Best Practices Checklist in addition to the report. In the near future, Destinations International will be launching an attendee promotion handbook to help CVBs provide services and craft targeted messaging that will strengthen the perception of the destination experience.

The Maximizing Attendance toolkit, which includes the DTA2 study, template and checklist is available for complimentary download here.


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