f events are held responsibly through strict implementation of health and safety guidelines, will people feel safe to attend in-person trade shows and events during a pandemic? That’s the question event organizers continue to struggle with, yet new data from event marketing and planning company GES sheds some light on the answer.
In a survey of more than 1,300 attendees in June and July, GES research uncovered five distinct groups of show attendees based on their COVID-19 perception of risk assessment and mitigation requirements, including temperature checks, mandatory face masks, sanitation practices and more. Respondents in these segments ranged from having no concerns returning to live events to being highly concerned about COVID-19 and having strong doubts about mitigation efficacy.
According to the findings, 88 percent of respondents are open to attending trade shows in person, with 65 percent demanding some form of mitigation to attend and 23 preferring no mitigation tactics. From the study, five core segments with varying priorities for returning to live events emerged and were classified by their distinct perception of COVID-19 risk assessment and mitigation requirements. These groups are as follows:
• Won’t attend: 12% were highly concerned by the health risks of attending live events and don’t believe in mitigation.
• Might attend: 24% were concerned about COVID-19 risk, but open to attending an event if it provided high value to them.
• Moderately concerned: 24% had only moderate concerns about COVID-19, expressed willingness to follow personal restrictions but are against set meetings or limited meeting times.
• Mildly concerned: 17% expressed only mild COVID-19 concerns. While this group expressed faith in personal mitigation procedures, they support structural changes to shows to promote safety.
• Not worried at all: 23% had low COVID-19 concerns and would like shows to proceed as they did before the pandemic.
Besides the importance of following federal and local health guidelines, the GES study highlights how essential it is for event planners to design their shows to accommodate different client segments while also balancing the differing views of acceptable event practices among constituents. For example, planners can avoid possible friction by proactively designing show schedules according to attendee risk tolerance and separating education activities by in-person and digital learning.
“[These] findings provide great insight to event organizers and underscore how critical it is to understand the attendee base and their risk perceptions to plan event design and mitigation strategies to attendee needs,” said Wendy Gibson, GES Global CMO. “It is our duty to proactively take action to understand all measures necessary and partner with all parties to safely and successfully reopen live events.”