“How to create successful events?” – this was the core question of the second research phase of the “Future Meeting Space” innovation alliance. The answer, in a nutshell: to satisfy attendees, event planners should focus on knowledge transfer as well as surprising or disruptive elements that bring about a change, plus individually respond to the requirements of different attendee types.
The GCB German Convention Bureau presented the results of the second phase of its “Future Meeting Space” research project at the 2019 PCMA Convening Leaders Conference in Pittsburgh to an international audience.
Six attendee types and six success factors
Socio-demographic facts as well as a range of indices were clustered and resulted in six event attendee types. They represent different degrees of tech-savviness, they differ in their communication behavior, they are either more or less career-focused and can be found in different levels of their organization. Depending on the attendee type, age and gender also come into play.
The types identified include:
Type #1: Tech Savvy, Young, Quiet
54% female, 34% in the 26 to 35 age group
82% with academic degree, 84% work full-time
Type #2: Tech-Savvy, Male, Experienced
72% male, 18% attend events as speakers
37% in the 46 to 55 age group
91% with academic degree, 14% with a PhD
21% are self-employed
Type #3: Communicative, Focused on the Job, Goal Oriented
61% male, 47% in the 46 to 55 age group
85% with academic degree, 16% with a PhD
20% are self-employed
Type #4: Quiet, Established, Inspired
53% female, 39% in the 46 to 55 age group
86% with academic degree, 20% are self-employed
Type #5: Quiet, Female, Observing
80% female, 34% in the 46 to 55 age group
86% with academic degree, 73% work full-time
Type #6: Young, Female, Eager to Learn
65% female, 35% in the 26 to 35 age group
81% with academic degree, 84% work full-time
The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO also used the survey data to identify six success factors for events that are correlated and interact.
Above all, satisfaction as the “meta” factor is largely influenced by the two other factors knowledge transfer and disruption: attendees are happy with events if they learned something new that they can apply in their everyday work and if events surprised them or triggered changes.
Networking, interaction and use of digital technologies are further success factors.
Recommendations for actions
Based on the attendee types and success factors, the research partners developed precise recommendations for action to successfully realize events. These include:
- Encourage networking – Attendees on the quiet side (types 1, 4 and 5) need support to facilitate communication with other attendees so that they have the same chances to make business connections.
- Active integration – Swapping seats can help more reserved attendees, as well as active integration and guidance in communicative situations.
- Simplify technology access – For the less tech-savvy attendee types 4 and 5 event planners should provide help to make access to new media and technologies easier.
- Event design – Events should not last for too long as this does not influence, for example, the potential for networking. Cost and benefit need to be considered.
- Technology – It is important to use innovative formats and technology to connect, visualize and present. Light and sound are supporting elements.
- Knowledge transfer – Speakers who can cover a topic from every angle are key to knowledge transfer as well as interactive formats such as fishbowl discussions, feedback apps or small groups.
- Visualization – New formats such as writable walls or large-scale projection screens intensify the development of knowledge.
- Disruption – The disruptive character of an event considerably impacts its success: Events that change CVs and organizations create lasting memories.
- Interaction – New content and interaction between attendees and also between attendees and speakers improve knowledge transfer and also have positive effects on the disruption factor.
• Knowledge transfer is key to ensure attendees are satisfied when they go home.
• Disruption: Events that turn into an experience and change us as attendees create lasting memories.
• It is important to cater to the different attendee types and integrate all of them – be it analogue or tech-savvy, younger or older, quiet or extrovert.
These findings were based on the data from an online survey that was conducted between September 2017 and June 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO that is part of Fraunhofer Society, Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization, as project manager and the GCB and European Association of Event Centres (EVVC) as lead managers developed attendee types, success factors and recommendations for action. Other research partners were KFP Five Star Conference Service GmbH, Panasonic Europe GmbH, Sennheiser electronic GmbH & Co. KG, SevenCenters of Germany, Tourismus NRW e.V. and VDE Konferenz Service in cooperation with m:con – mannheim:congress GmbH.