While conference organizers around the world are getting smarter about providing a wide variety of sessions targeting attendee interests, many participants struggle to choose a path that will prove most rewarding to them.

Results from the newly released Inside the Mind of Event Attendees survey conducted by Cvent and Edelman show that customized session recommendations could have a positive effect on attendee experience, particularly as adoption of mobile apps that educate and engage users has increased at conventions worldwide.

The survey, which polled 3,000 people in the U.S., UK, and Germany who had attended a professional conference in the last six months, revealed that 59 percent of respondents would welcome recommendations based on their interests or past conference behavior along with networking recommendations.

Data-Driven Conference Curation

With the majority of those surveyed seeking such customization, there is a big opportunity for conference planners to improve overall experience with tailored programming as an alternative to leaving attendees to choose from session summaries.

The average respondent attended three events in the last year, with more than three in four from each region having downloaded an event’s mobile app. Virtual events counted as a professional event, even if only a small percentage had attended one.

How Attendees Decide Which Sessions to Attend
U.S.UKGermany
Description of the Session77%77%72%
Speaker56%56%43%
Recommendation from Attendees47%39%51%
Recommendation from Event41%38%48%

Source: Cvent/Edelman

Event technology companies are working on solutions to better personalize events, which could represent a major improvement in the experience of attendees.

Mobile Adoption CREATES SEAMLESS EXPERIENCE

Attendees across each country agreed on a few core things. Networking was a key factor, with 90 percent saying the last event they had attended was a valuable investment of time.

Mobile adoption was high as well, with more than three in four attendees downloading a conference’s mobile app. Having session information and a schedule tracker came out on top as preferred features.

Most Valuable Mobile Event App Features
Overall
Session Info47%
Schedule Tracker47%
Maps39%
Speaker Info38%
Notification36%
Check-ins28%

Source: Cvent/Edelman

“Mobile event apps put your attendee’s minds at ease, enabling them to plan their days, navigate the venue, and make valuable connections,” the report stated. “Why? Mobile apps help ease the stress around logistics, helping attendees plan for the event and navigate the grounds.”

Other Learnings

Interestingly, the survey demonstrated that when it came to conference content, attendees considered video recordings the least valuable when compared to access to content via an app or email. Perhaps having a recording available post-conference reduces the perceived value of the event.

Half engaged with content before an event, while 40 percent engaged with content following an event. Regardless of staying engaged, one in four struggled to share what they learned with their colleagues once leaving the event.

Diving deeper into the research, many fascinating differences between attendees emerge. When it comes to finding information about events, attendees differed widely, depending on where they were from.

Top Sources of Information
U.S.UKGermany
Event Email29%39%26%
Friend or Colleague22%15%13%
Company Recommendation16%10%19%
Social Media6%4%5%
Online Search6%5%4%
Trade Publication6%10%18%

Source: Cvent/Edelman

Online search and social media, areas that garner a lot of attention from event marketers, were seen as uninspiring when it came to attending a conference. Email and recommendations, on the other hand, were the most effective way to influence potential attendees. Those surveyed in Germany turned to trade publications as well.

Finally, what would get people to attend more events? Reduced costs and an easier travel burden could help:

Top 3 Incentives to Attend More Events
U.S.UKGermany
Cheaper57%52%43%
Better Location57%54%46%
Closer to Home57%46%51%

Source: Cvent/Edelman

Millennials plan to attend more events than Gen X or Baby Boomer peers over the course of the next year, so having a better app and more affordable events could go a long way toward attracting them to conferences and improving attendee experience.

You can read the full report below.

Download (PDF, 16.47MB)

Photo Credit: A photo of a session at The Conference 2012 in Malmo, Sweden. Media Evolution / Jesper Berg / Flickr