It’s been a few weeks since our first in-person event since the pandemic flipped the industry upside down. The Northwest Event Show was an exciting step forward as we move into the next era of events. Our team is passionate about putting on events that help event professionals connect and move their careers forward. What better way to help than share our insights from planning the NWES? In this post, we’ll share key survey results from the top planners within the Pacific Northwest and insights from our planning team’s experience getting back to in-person events.
1. The Industry is Looking For New Ideas To Propel Business Forward
We surveyed hundreds of attendees from the 2022 NWES. The survey showed that a staggering 52% of attendees’ favorite feature of the show was exploring the expo floors.
It’s clear event professionals are eager to find new ways to do business. Apply this insight to your own business by exhibiting at tradeshows your audience will be at and offering innovative products and services to help your prospects move forward.
2. 12% of attendees were new to the industry, and demographics are changing
Marion Clifton, Partner at Butler Events, found the demographic change particularly insightful. She explains, “we had a healthy jump in 25-34-year-olds attending, and a decrease in the older age groups.” On top of the demographic change, 12% of attendees were new to the industry.
We are welcoming the younger generations as they enter the events industry and bring fresh perspectives. With younger generations joining our industry, event organizers need to rethink how to approach events, from the marketing to the final programs to tailor to the new and younger personas.
3. Simplify the planning process as much as possible
Due to multiple date changes, we had about ten weeks to execute the 2022 NWES. So in a way, our short timeline helped us to simplify things.
Kayla Cook, owner of Kayla Cook Events and Director of the NWES, elaborated on how the timeline helped the NWES keep focus, “There was limited time to get the show produced, so we had to focus and keep moving forward. As a result, we had less time to deliberate or change our messaging and plan.”
4. Clear Messaging is Critical
Stuart Butler, Founder of Butler Events and President of the Northwest Event Show, shared that messaging was the show’s biggest challenge, “Messaging was a big challenge. We had to identify who our audience was and speak to them so they could better understand what was in it for them to attend”.
And the entire NWES team agreed with Stuart. Clear messaging was a critical and challenging part of planning the 2022 show. NWES worked closely to hone in the event messaging and deliver it across all platforms so Seattle event professionals could see the value in attending.
5. The desire for networking has almost doubled since 2019.
41% of attendees’ primary interest in attending the 2022 show was to network with other event professionals in person again. Interest in networking has almost doubled since our last in-person event in 2019, in which only 23% of attendees surveyed reported networking being their top priority.
Use these insights and incorporate more opportunities for your attendees to network with one another at your events. It’s clear after many years apart that people are craving in-person connection.
6. The Industry is Still Getting Used to Being Back In-Person
For many, the NWES was the first event people attended since the pandemic brought everything to a halt in 2020. So many of us worked virtually for the last two years, and coming back to an in-person event was exciting and overwhelming. Unfortunately, not everyone remembered to bring business cards or update their headshots ahead of the show. In general, people were a bit out of practice and relearning how to maximize the experience.
Below you’ll see an example of how to create a guide. Before the 2022 NWES, we made the blog, The Northwest Event Show: Our Top FAQs and Tips to Know Before You Go! To help prepare attendees. Event professionals everywhere can take this idea and help attendees get back into practice by sharing know before you go guides and helpful tips.
7. Human Elements are a Must
Though there was plenty of signage on the floor, the biggest problem to solve during the show was directional. There were multiple floors of exhibitors, and we had to find a way to ensure all attendees knew how to navigate the experience.
Human directors helped navigate this issue tremendously. Stuart Butler, Founder of Butler Events and President of the Northwest Event Show, shared, “the human directors were a must. We could move people, answer questions, and entice them to see booths in real-time. To me, it’s the most effective way to help.”
8. The Demand for Educational Sessions has decreased by 38%
We found a dramatic shift in attendees’ priorities when comparing event surveys from 2019 and the 2022 NWES. The importance of attending educational sessions saw a 38% drop. At first, it seems shocking, but we anticipated this drop and that networking and connection would be a top priority at the 2022 show. The drop was largely due to networking opportunities dwindling during the pandemic, but educational opportunities were still available in online formats such as webinars.
We still believe education is a critical component of events and conferences and the demand will rise back up to a normal level. In addition, with the growing number of event profs new to the industry, education will play an important role in shaping the future of events. With that in mind, make sure to offer both educational and networking experiences to hit the mark for all in attendance!
9. An overwhelming 74% of attendees surveyed believe that meeting with vendors face-to-face impacts their decision to use a business’s product or service.
It’s no secret that face-to-face connection is a powerful tool in business. It’s easier to communicate in person, and people tend to agree more to in-person requests in business. This is one of the many benefits of attending in-person shows as both attendees and exhibitors. For example, we found that 74% of attendees surveyed at the NWES believed that meeting vendors in person impacted their decisions to purchase vendors’ services or products. That is a significant impact!
10. Flexibility is Key
When we decided to bring the show back, we knew we had to be flexible in planning. The Northwest Event Show was originally scheduled to come back in person in November of 2021. However, as that date approached, we quickly realized the Seattle community wasn’t ready to return. Then, we moved the show to February, but the Omicron surge impacted that date, so we moved it to March 1st.
While moving dates is frustrating, it was necessary. Being flexible as we planned and putting the health and safety of our attendees first was very important to us, but it complicated the planning process. Having flexibility allowed us to handle these complications and plan a successful show.
2022 NWES: Final Thoughts
We want to end by saying we are so grateful for the opportunity to connect with so many event profs at the 2022 NWES and thank everyone who came or took part in the survey. We’ll continue to use these insights to improve our events and create valuable attendees’ experiences. We hope you’ll find these insights helpful too. Use the data and tips above to plan better events that cater to attendees’ current needs. It’s essential to recognize that the industry is still shifting, and being adaptable will help create better events.
If you have any insights or feedback that you’d like to share, please reach out to us at social @ butlerevents.com – we’d love to hear from you.