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Networking Tops Education for Value at In-Person Meetings

According to a new report, planners feel their events deliver noticeably more value through attendee networking than through learning sessions. One takeaway: Create more breakout sessions featuring interactive formats.

A recent survey conducted by event-production firm Encore asked planners about where their in-person events delivered value for attendees. Perhaps it’s not unexpected after a two-year disruption of the meetings industry, but 74 percent said the value for attendees was in networking and relationship-building. Meanwhile, 61 percent said attendees found value in connecting to the organization’s mission and values, and 61 percent also said the value was in the educational and training opportunities offered. Lastly, 55 percent said that their meetings delivered value by building a feeling of belonging to the organization.

Given these results, the question is how planners can adapt their strategies and tactics to make each part of a meeting conducive to delivering value to attendees. Specifically: If more benefits are derived from attendee networking, can educational sessions become more valuable by using formats that promote attendee interaction as well as other attendee goals beyond learning rote information?

Encore’s analysis of the findings said as much. “Whether your goal is to drive professional relationships or deliver education, neither activity occurs in a vacuum. For example, educating attendees on an organization’s mission can help them feel more connected, give them a purpose for being there, and encourage engagement with one another that inspires action. Strategic educational programming also provides a great atmosphere for learning and personal growth, and can set the stage for more intentional networking conversations that greatly enhance the overall experience ... [Therefore] it might be worthwhile to focus on these core points in your programming and weave them into the content to be delivered.”

Two other interesting findings in Encore’s quarterly planner survey: 62 percent of respondents expect attendance at their meetings to grow in 2023, with 39 percent saying their attendee numbers will be more than 10 percent higher than in 2022. Fortunately, 61 percent of respondents also report more budget to work with this year, with 70 percent having more than 10 percent more to spend compared to last year.

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