Research & Reality: In-Person Events

By Donna Oser posted 03-11-2021 08:28

Photo by BERK OZDEMIR from Pexels

Research released last week by Freeman, a significant global player in events, showed the majority of attendees and exhibitors in the U.S. plan to return to face-to-face events by the fall of 2021. The most comprehensive research of its kind in the industry, Freeman's analysis is based on data from more than 1 million U.S. event attendees, exhibitors, organizers, and brand marketers (and 20% international attendees).

According to the study, 78% of attendees expect to attend in-person events in fall 2021, increasing to 94% by winter. Exhibitors are slightly more optimistic, with 80% returning this fall, and 95% doing so by winter. The study found that vaccination propels confidence and interest in returning to large in-person events, with 86% more confident in doing so once vaccinated. (Interestingly, trade show attendees, suppliers, and exhibitors report being more willing to immediately receive the vaccine than the average person in the U.S.) Freeman's research also found that 68% of attendees and 71% of exhibitors expect to have no corporate travel restrictions by Q3 2021.

With regional audiences and having implemented extensive safety protocols, in-person association events in Michigan appear to be coming online ahead of Freeman's national events prediction. @Philip Douma, Executive Director of The Michigan Funeral Directors Association, looks forward to hosting their annual conference and exhibit show in-person in Traverse City in June. Likewise, Michigan Bankers Association is on track to host its 135th Annual Convention on Mackinac Island in June, with in-person and virtual options for its members. Of course, MSAE's Annual Conference will be held in-person the last full week in August.

The return to in-person events is a decision each association leader must make according to their constituencies and event specifics. Quality research, up-to-date information on the state of the virus and vaccination, and our colleagues' experiences will certainly help inform these decisions.