B2B Event Organizers Prioritizing Attendance and Engagement

September 13, 2023

The B2B exhibition market is recovering from the pandemic: although it will still be some time until it reaches its pre-pandemic levels, virtually all exhibitions are now going ahead as planned. Additionally, most (52.1%) B2B conference organizers report growth in attendance at their B2B in-person conferences in the past year, far ahead of the share (29.5%) who say that attendance has shrunk, according to results from Bizzabo research [download page] into B2B in-person conferences.

When asked about how their most recent conference compared to the previous one, a majority of event organizers also reported increases in registrations (61.7%), attendance (56.8%), revenues (62.8%) and participant satisfaction (62.8%).

With the conference business back on the rise, some 41.6% share of organizers surveyed said they are planning to schedule more in-person B2B events next year than they did this year, with a further 44.8% expecting to schedule about the same amount.

As they do so, they’ll be focusing on drawing attendees and keeping them engaged. When asked to indicate the highest priority for their company when planning their next conference, a leading 19% share pointed to increasing attendee engagement, followed ever so closely by the 18.9% who cited increasing attendance.

It’s not only attendee numbers that count, though: recent research from Splash suggests that the key to a successful B2B event program is increasingly about attracting the right attendees.

It helps to have something to show for the event, too. Beyond attendee volume and engagement, event organizers will also be prioritizing increasing sales pipeline (15.8%), increasing sponsor/exhibitor ROI (11.1%), and increasing registration revenue (11%).

In so doing, they’ll be facing numerous challenges. The biggest challenge that organizers faced in their most recent B2B conference was fitting the event into the wider marketing plan, as cited by almost one-quarter (23.8% share) of respondents. That’s interesting, given that in-person events are widely used in B2B marketing strategies. Vendor selection (17.9%) and venue selection (16.3%) are also key challenges.

On a positive note, more than 7 in 10 organizers either strongly agreed (23.8%) or agreed (48.9%) that their leadership team and the C-suite support their in-person event strategy, despite about the same share strongly agreeing (25.8%) or agreeing (45.4%) that they struggle to prove in-person conference ROI to key stakeholders.

The Attendee Perspective

In line with the reports from the organizer side, an accompanying survey of event attendees indicates that this year they’re about twice as likely to attend more (31.7%) than less (15%) events compared to last year. That said, a majority (53.3%) will attend about the same amount.

When asked their favorite event format, a leading 40.6% share cited hybrid events (in-person with a virtual component/offering). In-person events (27.2% share) and virtual events (full-day or multi-day virtual events; 25.4%) were almost on par, with webinars (6.8%) less likely to be the preferred format.

As regards webinars, there may be some fatigue creeping in. Although 29.1% said they will attend more webinars this year than last, more than one-fifth (21.1% share) said they’ll be attending fewer.

When deciding whether to attend an in-person event, the largest share (20.5%) of attendees said that venue location is their top priority, ahead of DE&I efforts (16.3%), travel/accommodation costs (15.2%) and networking opportunities (14.2%). Indeed, almost two-thirds strongly agree (20.5% share) or agree (44.1%) that the in-person B2B conference venue can make or break their event experience.

For more, download the full study here.

About the Data: The results are based on a June survey of 4,075 respondents – 1,757 B2B event organizers and 2,318 attendees.


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