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Who Goes to Events?

The Future Meeting Space Project is exploring who today’s event participants are and what makes them tick.

I just took an interesting 41-question survey that aims to figure out what event participants value by asking respondents about what types of events they’ve attended recently, what they found most and least useful about the learning formats and technology used, and several other factors about the event experience. It got me thinking. 

It asked me to pick a conference or event I attended in the past year, choose which factors motivated me to participate in that event, say who I went with, and explain what the experience was like in different formats (plenary, interactive breakouts, social and networking events, etc.), as well as what factors made the event feel like a success to me. 

It was pretty interesting, especially since it made me reflect on just how different my answers would be to all of the questions if I had chosen a different event—or rather, I may have picked the same answers, but they would have had totally different meanings. I took it with Meeting Professionals International’s 2017 World Education Congress in mind, but if I had picked, say, IMEX America last fall, or the press trip I took to Tanzania, the importance of various tech tools, for example, would have varied greatly. I mean, while the computers in the press room at IMEX America were a welcome convenience, I would have cried if I couldn’t re-juice my only camera, my iPhone, in the safari truck while hours away from the nearest human habitation in the Serengeti. And while I would strongly agree with the statement that all three “fascinated me,” the ways in which they did so couldn’t be any more different.

It brought home once again how key it is to know what goals you have for your participants at each event or conference—what do you want them to think, feel, and take away from the experience? What do you want them to value, and what tools and what formats will you provide to help them get that value? And to think it anew at each event you plan because even if you’re serving the same participants, everything else still has to be designed around how the experience you provide meets the event’s purpose. 

The research is part of the second phase of a project by the Future Meeting Space innovation network, which is gathering and analyzing meetings-related information so it can recommend potential future actions. The survey, led by the German Convention Bureau, the European Association of Event Centres, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering, is open until May 17, so take a few minutes to contribute your two cents on what makes meetings participants tick. Here’s a link to the survey.

I think the results will be fascinating.


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