If you feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you, you’re not alone. When in-person events started to roll out this summer after months of virtual experiences, things started to look almost — dare we say — normal. Then came the delta variant. As news of escalating infection rates from the COVID-19 variant hit, attendees, exhibitors and other show stakeholders understandably started to get spooked.
Yet, research conducted Aug. 24 by Epistemix indicates that in-person business events are safer than many daily activities such as grocery shopping when the proper protocols are in place. If you are holding an in-person and hybrid event in the coming months, you can leverage data — from a Freeman survey conducted in collaboration with Epistemix as well as research from Ohio State University — to help allay concerns about physical events. Here are some takeaways from those studies.
- At least 80% of trade show attendees and 83% of exhibitors are vaccinated — rates much higher than the latest CDC figures for vaccination nationally, which show roughly 60% of Americans have received one dose and just over 50% have received both.1
- Events have not been shown to be a major driver of case counts, and infection rates at recent events that were either held outside with on-site testing — Lollapalooza being a well-known example — or with vaccine and/or mask mandates were lower than general rates for the metro area hosting the event.1
- Over 90% of event participants are not opposed to additional health and safety protocols that will enable them to gather safely. Any who are opposed will likely stay home, further mitigating risk.1
- Events are controlled environments. Access is limited to registered guests and the situation allows for proactive steps to avoid overcrowding and reliable implementation of health and safety measures, from facial coverings to pre-packaged food with low-touch distribution.2
Giving Exhibitors a Shot of Confidence
While safety remains a top concern, the ROI of attending and exhibiting at in-person events is also a topic of focus. If your exhibitors, sponsors and stakeholders are expressing doubt that attendees will show, these findings — based on Freeman’s recent survey of 8,729 participants across a variety of categories — should help to thaw a case of cold feet.
- Attendees want in-person events. The vast majority of attendees (89%) say in-person events are irreplaceable. Given a hybrid format, 80% of time would be spent in person.1
- Knowing key exhibitors won’t be participating is the No. 1 reason attendees wouldn’t attend. “Engaging/exploring with visitors” is the top reason attendees say they attend in-person events, followed closely by networking with both exhibitors and peers.1
- Only 30% of attendee organizations are likely to restrict travel due to the delta variant. Nearly 50% of organizations plan to send the same number of staff to events as they have in years past.1
- Smaller events present an opportunity to focus on quality over quantity. At 94%, almost all exhibitors responded favorably to the prospect of smaller, more qualified audiences.1
The full messaging template featuring the above evidence-based talking points can be found here.
A version of this article originally appeared in PCMA Convene.
1 Freeman, Epistemix. Delta impact study. (2021).
2 Amaya, M., Mazurek Melnyk, B., Fairchild, A. (2021). The scientific-based evidence for conducting safe and healthy professional meetings and events (PMEs). The Ohio State University.