Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now in Washington, DC.
Data points from the second Decision to Attend study offer valuable insights about what attendees want out of meetings.
While every organization’s meeting is different, their attendees all have something in common: They are discerning travelers with high expectations.
That’s one of the takeaways of the second part of the Decision to Attend study (DTA2), which surveyed 8,992 current and prospective attendees.
Another positive data point from the study: 91 percent of respondents possess the will or strong propensity to continue their personal and professional education as adult learners. In other words, people are looking to attend association meetings. But how do you get them there?
As with the previous survey done in 2014, DTA2 revealed the same top-three drivers for getting attendees onsite: education, destination, and networking.
When it comes to education, 92 percent said education is important, whether it comes from an education session or the exhibit floor, while 67 percent said keeping up or staying abreast of their industry or profession is very important. For meeting planners, this means that education should always be a strong component of the promotional message, regardless of generation or attendance frequency.
As for destination, 71 percent of all generations said location factors into their decision—with 20 to 30 percent saying it’s the deciding factor. Also mentioned was the importance of experiencing new destinations. For planners, this means promoting cool or new things to do in the location can tip a maybe attendee to the yes list.
Besides education and destination, attendees also want the ability to network with colleagues. More than 75 percent of respondents in all age groups said it’s important for a meeting to give them opportunities to make connections, with 49 percent of millennials rating it as very important—the highest of all generations. Study authors say impromptu meetups on topics or special interests will help fulfill this attend need.
Just as certain elements drive attendees to meetings, barriers can keep them away. As in the 2014 survey, four categories emerged: cost, timing, destination appeal, and getting approval. To overcome the cost barrier, the study suggests groups consider offering attendees discounts on food and transportation, as well as installment payments for registration.
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Meetings Memo: Attendee Insights."]