news, business, culture, and disruption

Which do you prefer? In person or virtual events?

by | Jul 20, 2011 | Mojo Social: Meet, Mix & Match | 0 comments

The Professional Convention Management Association, UBM Studios, and the Virtual Edge Institute  released a joint report, revealing the business motivations and social behaviors of attendees and exhibitors when participating in physical or online events.
 Michael Doyle, executive director of VEI, says that “…Too often the argument centers on how face-to-face or virtual best delivers on an event experience… there are significant similarities… (but) fundamental differences… regardless of format… this report will help… look at the combined effect of wrapping a digital event strategy around physical events and meetings… ”
Regardless of format, people have the same drivers for attending an exhibit hall, seeing ‘what is new’ is the number one motivation by far. Gathering relevant product and company information as well as gaining access to subject matter expertise are all clustered in second place. Demos and application education are highly sought as well.

Motivation Importance For Trade Show Attendance (% of Respondents)
  Virtual Exhibition Hall In-Person Exhibition Hall
  Not Motivate Possible Motivate Will Motivate  Not Motivate Possible Motivate Will Motivate
Get company/product solution for review 10% 51% 39% 8% 47% 45%
See how company can help 9 52 39 9 54 37
See demo or product 10 44 45 7 48 44
Talk to sales person 63 33 4 51 40 9
See what is new 5 41 55 1 28 70
Talk to expert 13 47 40 9 45 45
Source: PCMA, UBM Studios and VEI Study, July 2011

Attendees continue to show interest in virtual events due to the value of the content provided and the ease-of-use or access with virtual environments. As expected, content is king with 97% of respondents saying that compelling content is important or very important, as is an easy-to-use environment, Interestingly, the ability to ‘ask questions and participate actively’ also scored 90%. The drivers to attending virtually include reduced travel costs and hassles and minimizing time away from family/office.

Importance of Factors in Determining If Virtual Event Worthwhile to Attend
 Factor %of Respondents Saying Important
Content compelling 97%
Easy to use virtual environment 90
Participate actively 90
Eliminate travel costs and hassle 88
Time “away” 87
Maintain relationships 70
Make new contacts 68
Knowing attendees 58
Earn certification/license 58
Acquire new business 58
Source: PCMA, UBM Studios and VEI Study, July 2011

Compared to their online counterparts, in-person participants are just about as likely to be checking email or leave a meeting/session for some reason. Online attendees are significantly more likely to take a phone call during a presentation than physical attendees. Though both physical and virtual attendees admit to surfing the web or shopping during a presentation, it’s more common amongst online attendees.

Personal Behaviors and Actions At Events
  Attendance Online Attendance In-Person
Action % of Respondents % of Respondents
IM’d due to boredom 26% 18%
Shopped/surfed on web 42 28
IM’d to share info 33 28
Texted/Tweeted from boredom 32 35
Taken phone call 66 48
Texted/Tweeted to share info 41 51
Left meeting/session 68 65
Traded contact info 33 78
Checked email 83 81
Source: PCMA, UBM Studios and VEI Study, July 2011

Though physical meetings and events are beginning to show signs of recovery, delegates remain largely unchanged in their plans for traveling to these events. As high as 78% plan the same amount of travel over the next 12 months.
When asked why respondents would attend a physical event over an online event, the primary motivations were related to networking and collaboration: meeting with speakers/experts/colleagues, meeting customers/prospects, and to collaborate more effectively.

Primary Reasons for Attending In-Person (Versus Virtual)
Reason for In-person Attendance % of Respondents
Meet speakers/experts/colleagues 68%
Meet customers/prospects 56
Collaborate effectively 52
Easier to collect/absorb information 49
Present content 37
Combine work and personal travel 37
Source: PCMA, UBM Studios and VEI Study, July 2011

For those who exhibited at conference and tradeshows, the main motivations cited for exhibiting included: brand awareness, new business development, educate market on products/solutions, new lead generation, and thought leadership.

Motivations for Exhibiting at Trade Show (% of Those Who Have Exhibited)
Motivation % of Respondents
Brand and product awareness 68%
New business development 65
Educate on products/solutions 62
New lead generation 57
Thought leadership 51
Generate immediate sales 25
Source: PCMA, UBM Studios and VEI Study, July 2011

Deborah Sexton, President and CEO of PCMA, concludes that these findings show “… a tremendous opportunity for meeting and event practitioners and virtual event vendors to come together on common ground… together…  the conversation (can move to) provide a richer experience that engages the visual and auditory senses… and ultimately delivers definitive business results… ”
And Kate Spellman, President, UBM Studios, says “… virtual events can compliment an organization’s marketing and business objectives while also expanding the overall audience experience… ”
To access a copy of the “Business Motivations and Social Behavior for In-Person and Online Events” report, please visit here.