PARIS / LONDON – UFI and Explori are releasing new findings from the ongoing “Global Recovery Project” research. The study programme is conducted by live events research specialists, Explori in partnership with UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry and supported by SISO, the Society for Independent Show Organizers.
The findings, comprising over 9,000 responses from 30 countries, have shown that whilst visitors and exhibitors overwhelmingly prefer live events, digital event elements (often called “virtual”) have a role to play in serving segments of the audience going forward. Around half of respondents have now experienced an online-only event in some format, with two thirds of exhibitors having spoken at a third-party event, or run their own online event. As of early August, only 13% of exhibitors had paid to sponsor a third-party online event.
Both visitors and exhibitors rate live events more highly across almost all aspects. Networking is seen as a particular strength of live events, with 77% of exhibitors and 83% of visitors stating that face-to-face events were much better than online in this respect.
However, visitors do already recognise that online-only events offer a reduced cost of attending and are beginning to compete with face-to-face events in the quality of the content they can offer. 52% of visitors felt online-only events were as good as, if not better than live events in their content offering.
79% of visitors have at least some interest in attending a hybrid event as an online-only delegate. When asked to consider an event they had never attended before, they had a much higher interest in attending remotely compared to an event they were familiar with.
“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. 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,” said Kai Hattendorf, UFI CEO.
Sophie Holt, Global Strategy Director, Explori added: “Online and hybrid seem to have a complimentary role to play alongside live events. Not only will they give reassurance to visitors who are concerned about safety in the short term, but still want to connect with their community, but they may also have an important role to play in bringing new audiences to established events. This could form part of the customer journey, with online-only events acting as qualification and conversion tools for a flagship live event, or giving sponsors access to a totally new audience whose needs are better met by the 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.”