by Michael J. Shapiro | November 02, 2017
The Experience Institute, which conducts research on visitor and attendee experiences, is collaborating with a handful of industry organizations on the "Maximizing Attendance" initiative, an in-depth look at attendee behavior and factors that influence their show attendance. Together with the American Society of Association Executives, Destinations International, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, Meeting Professionals International and the Professional Convention Management Association, the Experience Institute has produced its second Decision to Attend Study, available for free download as part of a complete toolkit here.
Recent findings reveal the top three drivers that get people to make the decision go to a conference are education (92 percent), the destination (78 percent) and the opportunity to network (76 percent). The ongoing study builds on the first survey, conducted in 2014. The latest report includes insight on generational differences, attendance frequency, barriers to attend and return intentions, among other facets of the attendee experience. The research is based on responses from nearly 9,000 delegates to conventions and exhibitions held by a dozen different organizations.
"This study continues to prove that today's attendees are seasoned, discerning consumers," said Mickey Schaefer, FASAE, CAE, CTA, founder and CEO of the Experience Institute. "Yet, the true group profile of what attendees do 'outside the walls' of the event remains elusive. The vision is to maximize attendance by identifying the nuances of each group in order to match attendees to their preferred environment - an environment where they will thrive, talk about it and decide to return." 
The study's online toolkit includes a behavioral profile template and best practices checklist. Destinations International will soon launch a related Attendance Promotion Handbook for destination marketing organizations.
"This research is critical to understanding the various needs of attendees and their process for determining whether to attend a meeting," said MPI president and CEO Paul Van Deventer. "We believe the planner segment of our global community will find this information invaluable as they develop strategies for the meetings and events they plan."
"The latest Decision to Attend Study research confirms that content and meeting location are the top two drivers for people in deciding whether to attend a meeting," added ASAE president and CEO John Graham, FASAE, CAE. "But it also highlights how attendees have higher expectations and desire new experiences. It's critical for learning, [and for] meetings and communication teams to work together and develop new content, experiences and engagement strategies, so members are motivated to attend and return to your events." 
Destinations that supported the study include Premium Level sponsors Des Moines, Iowa, and Synchronicities (San Antonio; Anaheim, Calif.; and Baltimore), as well as the Gold-Level sponsors (Denver; Detroit; Minneapolis; Phoenix; Raleigh, N.C.; San Francisco; San Jose, Calif.; and St. Louis.