Global association of the exhibition industry UFI and live events research specialists explori have released new findings from the ongoing ‘Global Recovery Project’ study that show visitors and exhibitors overwhelmingly prefer live events to digital.
The study, also supported by the Society for Independent Show Organisers (SISO) produced findings from 9,000 responses from 30 countries.
Around half of respondents said they had 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, with networking is seen as a particular strength of live events, and 77% of exhibitors and 83% of visitors state that face-to-face events were much better than online in this respect.
The results do indicate that visitors are recognising that online-only events offer a reduced cost of attending and are beginning to compete with face-to-face events in terms of quality of content they can offer.
Just over half (52%) of visitors felt online-only events were as good as, if not better than live events in their content offering and 79% of visitors expressed 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, survey respondents had a much higher interest in attending remotely compared to an event they were familiar with.
“This global survey delivers key insights to organisers 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 complementary 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.”
Further results from the study will be released in the coming weeks, including via the UFI Connects webinar series available at: ufi.org/uficonnects