New Research Suggests Live Events Still Preferred But Digital Playing a Stronger Role

September 8, 2020

While live events continue to be overwhelmingly preferred, digital event elements have a role to play going forward, according to data from the ongoing Global Recovery Project conducted by event research company Explori in partnership with UFI.

Supported by SISO and comprising responses from more than 9,000 respondents in 30 countries, the findings indicated that both visitors and exhibitors rated live events more highly in almost all aspects. This was especially true when it comes to networking, with 77 percent of exhibitors and 83 percent of visitors stating that face-to-face events were much better than online.

That said, respondents also indicated they appreciated the reduced costs for attending online events and that the quality of the content was starting to compete with that of face-to-face events — with 52 percent saying the online content was as good as, if not better, than live events. 

“This global survey delivers key insights to organizers as they plan ahead. It underlines the clear preference that people want to meet in person to do business,” said Kai Hattendorf, CEO of UFI. “At the same time, it gives a clear roadmap for areas where digital events need to evolve to become a permanent fixture in a hybrid future for the business events industry.”

The survey found that 79 percent of the respondents had at least some interest in attending a hybrid event as an online-only delegate, especially if it was an event they had never attended before.

“Online and hybrid seem to have a complementary role to play alongside live events,” said Sophie Holt, global strategy director for Explori. Holt suggested that online-only events could act as qualification and conversion tools for a flagship live event or offer sponsors access to a totally new audience whose needs are better met in a virtual setting. 

“We will be conducting a further phase of research in the near future to further understand the sentiments of visitors and exhibitors, including their views on different aspects of the digital event formats,” said Holt.

Additional results from the ongoing study will be released in the coming weeks, both through traditional reports and via the UFI Connects webinar series, which is available here.

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