Personalize Me and Provide an App, Event Attendees Request in a New Survey

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A new survey from the event software firm Cvent says that the majority of event attendees—especially in the United States—want personalized session recommendations before and during the event, based on their past attendances and interests. They would also like networking recommendations.

In addition, 59% of those surveyed from the U.S. would like a fully detailed schedule at the event—in print and in an app—including session descriptions, where to eat and what social functions to attend. That same percentage also wants recommendations about other professional events to attend. Those who download an event app are more likely to attend more events.

"Our results show that technology is shaping the future of events, with mobile event apps and onsite technology having an extremely positive impact on the attendee experience," said Patrick Smith, CMO at Cvent.

Here are other key takeaways from the survey.

Are we missing the boat on mobile event apps? More than 2/3 of mobile event app downloaders had a positive experience last time, and 70% found them extremely valuable (3 in 4 download them when they are available). However, only 1 in 4 attendees report that the last event they attended offered a mobile app. The top five mobile event app features are: session information, schedule tracker, maps, speaker information and notifications. Others include speaker contact information and attendee messaging. That last one could be big with the way Facebook is heading.

Networking continues to be crucial. Among event factors that contribute positively to the overall event experience, in-person networking with other attendees was at the top, with 63% saying this contributed to an overall positive experience. Aside from being a key component of events, many attendees reported that networking opportunities have a significant impact on their lives beyond the event itself. People want more networking oportunities, especially if it can be personalized.

Offer more session details. The decision-making process for choosing a session now leans primarily on the description of the session (77% among U.S. attendees) and who the speaker is (56%). Recommendations only drive attendance to a specific session 41% of the time.

Make processes smoother. Onsite solution technology helps to ease stress for attendees by eliminating long queues and making moving from session-to-session an easier process.

Provide take-home materials. In a bit of a reversal of what we've thought the last couple years—that people don't want to bring stuff home—1 in 4 attendees said that getting handouts and materials is valuable. The reason is to share with colleagues to provide more value to their company.

Emphasize the learning and growing opportunities. Above all else, attendees see professional events as a chance to learn and grow. So "quality of learning opportunity" and "professional development" are biggest reasons to attend.

Ease the stress. The top five stressors of attending events are being away from home, not knowing anyone, getting to and from the event location, finding your way around the event location and networking. Other stressors include what to wear and translating ley learnings into action at work. Millennials show higher stress levels, especially when it comes to the social aspects of attending events.

Emails still provide the best marketing. Emails are the number one source of event information followed by friend/colleague referrals and company recommendations. The average cost of the last conference attended is $811. Interestingly, events that last one day or less rose from 35% in 2015 to 38% in 2018. People in education are now apt to attend the most events.

Solicit recommendations to younger colleagues. Millennials generally rely on recommendations from the event (48%) at a higher rate than Generation Xers (41%) and baby boomers (35%), and they are most interested in the benefits of personalization on the whole. Millennials are also looking to increase the number of events they attend next year but say the paralysis of choice remains a challenge.

"That said, they do find the overall event experience significantly more stressful, especially having to network with people they don't know," the report states. "They are leaning on events to provide more recommendations that are personalized to their needs, from which sessions to attend to who they should connect with."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…