DIGITALLY augmented events are here to stay with a survey by exhibition giant Reed showing more business event attendees open to the use of technology since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Acceptance of digital tools is increasing over time with 84 per cent of business event attendees having tried at least one new digital service since the Covid restrictions, while visitors and exhibitors tried three new digital services between June and September.
These and many other findings are detailed in the Covid-19 and How It’s Changing the Event Industry white paper released this week by Reed Exhibitions.
Reed says it is the largest and most ambitious research project undertaken by the company and involved nearly 3,000 exhibitors and over 9,000 attendees across 201 events and 17 Reed Exhibitions offices worldwide.
The quantitative online tracking survey involved 2,863 exhibitors and 9,270 attendees across 201 events and 17 business units in Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Middle East, Reed Expositions France, Reed MIDEM, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, UK, USA and Vietnam. Launched in June 2020, the survey has been conducted monthly through to October, and is planned to continue on a bi-monthly basis from November.
The study comes after reports surfaced of at least 500 job losses at Reed Exhibitions as part of global cost reductions, according to the Financial Times, which said redundancies have either already been made or would be carried out by the end of the year.
Regarding the new study, Layla Northern, Reed Exhibitions’ global head of digital customer insights, said it served as a barometer into key concerns and behaviours of the company’s exhibitors and visitors by tracking their changing attitudes to physical events and digital event technology over time.
“When the scale of the global pandemic started to become clear in early February, there was little in the way of formal, comparable data to help the events industry understand its immediate and longer-term impact on our customers, our events and our global marketplace,” Northern said.
“Started in June 2020, this ongoing, regular research is not only helping us at Reed Exhibitions to evolve our technology and services in response to Covid-19 and changing customer needs; it also offers our industry valuable insights into how we might reshape our events to our customers’ advantage, and fuel long-term profitability and growth in the future.”
Other key findings of the Reed Exhibitions Covid-19 Barometer include:
- Consumer willingness to adopt digital is reflected in attitudes towards online events. The number of visitors who say they would like to carry out one or more event activities digitally whilst they are unable or unwilling to attend in person is significant, and has increased consistently, from 91% in June to 94%in September.
- Visitor agreement with all positive statements around digital is increasing. 59% of visitors now say they would be likely to sign up to attend an online trade event, up from 57% in June. Those who believe they can still carry out the majority of their event objectives online is also increasing, up from 52% to 57%.
- Exhibitors are more cautious about online tools than visitors. 43% believe that they can still carry out the majority of their event objectives online. Verbatim responses reveal that one of their key concerns is that attendees will not engage in digital events – a belief not borne out by attendee data.
- Engagement with digital activities increases with familiarity and exposure. For example, participants in travel events, which have a long tradition of using online meeting tools to arrange physical meetings, are much more comfortable with the idea of using live meeting software in a digital environment.
- COVID-19 has not diminished the value of in-person events for participants who are committed to returning as soon as restrictions are lifted. Throughout the period of the tracking survey, the importance of events has remained consistent for both exhibitors and visitors.
- While exhibitors remain sure they will spend less while the pandemic continues to unfold, and prior to vaccine availability, around two-thirds of exhibitors expect to return to normal levels (or spend more) once a vaccine is developed.
- Customers are increasingly open to the idea of engaging with digital alongside in-person events as they return. 65% of visitors and 57% of exhibitors believe digital will continue to work for events after Covid-19.