1. Lessons In Leadership

Searching the Research

It’s time to read between the lines.

Freeman recently released a new Trends Report that offers robust analysis of the current events industry with specific focus on 2024 Attendee Intent and Behavior. It contains insights that will prove invaluable to any CEO, CMO or Brand Manager navigating media channels to sustain brand trust. But it also suggests that there’s something business executives need to stop doing.

As we’ve all experienced, in the age of increasing misinformation, trust is the ultimate currency. Just since last year’s survey, the percent of respondents naming in-person events as the most trusted of all available marketing channels jumped from 75% to 80% – topping the list. And the percent indicating their intent to attend more events increased to 92%.

The research is rich with data points that are frankly good news for everyone in the events industry. But what becomes clear, from a big-picture perspective, is that shifts in attitudes and priorities are rapidly accelerating along with generational shifts. This suggests that the influence of younger show-goers has gained heft as baby boomers – the dominant influencers for so long – is in decline. It’s not your father’s event industry. It’s not even the same market we enjoyed five years ago.

That means we need to stop comparing results (trends, KPIs, etc.) to pre-pandemic numbers. Sometimes it makes our efforts look good, but it’s still irrelevant. The subtext of our Trends Report is that executives from all business sectors should reconsider their marketing strategies because they may be measuring the wrong things. If attendees are giving you increasingly high marks on your after-hours events, but most of them rate this as a low priority, you need to rethink where you’re investing.

Do attendees turn to your event to have fun, to learn, to network, or to conduct business? Probably some combination of all those things. And that’s what needs to inform the event design and metrics. Fortunately, new technologies and AI applications make it easier to personalize the event experience based on attendees’ priorities. They can shape their own experiences within the larger context of the conference or trade show.

Here’s the bottom line: people are increasingly turning to in-person events as a trusted source of information. As marketers, we have an obligation to up our game, honor that trust, and deliver more of what they want. 87% of attendees prioritize the prospect of discovering new products, solutions, and partners. But only you know what this means to the people interested in your brand and the experience you promise them.

Our survey confirms that attendee trust is fragile. It’s time to understand what our audiences want… and immerse them in events that deliver.

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