Exhibition visitors and exhibitors overwhelmingly prefer live events, according to the first edition of the Global Recovery Insights 2020 report by live event 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, based on more than 9,000 responses from across 30 countries, show that both exhibition visitors and exhibitors continue to prefer live events, and that there is no evidence of a major shift away from face-to-face meetings. Although the intended frequency of participation has dropped for both groups, this is only marginally the case for exhibitors, indicating a clear desire among exhibiting companies to return to on-site showfloors.
The social aspect of events remains a critical draw for both groups, who rely on live events to create connections within their communities. Study participants, globally, believe that this aspect of events cannot be served effectively by digital events. There is a clear message from visitors that the quality of exhibitors is paramount, while exhibitors are now also valuing visitor quality, over quantity.
There are signs that budgets will also be restored quickly, with 53 per cent of exhibitors expecting their show investments to return to pre-COVID-19 levels within 12 months, while 28 per cent report that their investments will return as soon as tradeshows start running again. While funds allocated to live events have been put on hold, overall marketing budgets were yet to see severe cuts as of late summer.
Both visitors and exhibitors will look at their previous experiences when deciding to return to a show. They will turn to show brands they trust to deliver both robust safety measures, and, perhaps more importantly, a high-quality audience.
“This study delivers important insights and reassurance to organisers and the wider industry, as they plan ahead in these uncertain times. It underlines the clear preference and importance of being able to meet in-person to do business, and the desire for both visitors and exhibitors to again meet face-to-face. It also underlines the negative impact all industries are experiencing as a result of industry events not going ahead,” said Kai Hattendorf, CEO and managing director at UFI.
The full report will be shared with UFI and SISO members in coming days.