Research conducted exclusively for EN by Explori and sponsored by EventsCase shows industry professionals are mainly focused on delivering postponed events, understanding changes in customer needs and developing new sources of revenue.
The Exhibition Industry Survey, conducted from 27 January to 8 February, was set up to measure the impact of Covid-19 on the events industry and to understand business priorities and reinvention strategies.
It also aimed to get a sense of what the industry will look like in the future and when, if at all, respondents expect it to fully recover.
The research, conducted as part of the 2021 Exhibition Industry Survey, shows that the main priorities for businesses over the next year are delivering postponed events (54%), developing new sources of revenue (54%), and understanding changing customer needs (53%). Less than a fifth of respondents (19%) foresee delivering events virtually as a priority in the next 12 months.
For organisers specifically, the main priorities are delivering postponed events (61%), developing new sources of revenue (59%), engaging target audiences (58%) and understanding changing customer needs (55%). Around a third of organisers (34%) are planning to deliver events virtually and almost half (46%) are planning to deliver hybrid events.
Looking at regional differences, both rolling out new technologies and merger and acquisition activity are less of a priority for companies in the UK compared to those based in other regions. Planned merger and acquisition activity is particularly pronounced in other European markets (23%, vs 5% in UK).
When it comes to delivering hybrid events, the results found that the larger the company, the more likely it is to prioritise delivering hybrid events (69% for larger events businesses down to 28% for smaller companies).This is potentially driven by the relative levels of resources available to these different company sizes to develop and deliver hybrid events.
New sources of revenue, postponed events and customer needs
Tied at 54%, the most commonly-selected revenue-generating priorities for businesses over the next year, according to the survey, are delivering postponed events and developing new sources of revenue. This was closely followed at 53% by understanding changing customer needs.
As part of the survey, events professionals were also asked how they plan to go about developing new revenue sources.
By some distance, launching a new product (56%), closely followed by establishing partnerships (52%), were the most common strategies selected.
With an average number of two options selected, the results show that those planning to develop new revenue sources mainly intend to do so through establishing partnerships and launching new products.
Among the other strategies selected to develop new revenue sources, the results show that European companies based outside of the UK are more likely than those based in other regions to have plans to take out loans to fund new initiatives. Small companies are less likely than larger ones to see mergers and acquisitions as the route to generating new sources of revenue.
New Products / Services
With live events on hold, organizer respondents were additionally presented with a list of products and services they may look to launch help develop new revenue streams.
Just over half of organisers (51%) are considering or developing online communities whilst 47% are focusing on matchmaking solutions.
Having a stronger digital focus has of course been a top priority for many businesses over past year. According to the survey results, 51% of organisers have run virtual events over the last year; among this group,webinars (82%), conferences (68%) and virtual trade shows (55%) were the most common formats. As well as being the most common format, webinars were also the most frequently held virtual format – with organisers having run an average of 11 in the last year.
A further 35% of organisers are either considering or developing virtual events. Out of those planning to run virtual events, 81% said they are looking to conduct webinars, with conferences (54%) and virtual hosted buyer events (46%) also popular among this group.
There was a variety of metrics that events professionals found useful to assess the performance of virtual events. Respondents selected five metrics on average, with a majority citing attendance (95%) and registration (71%) numbers, average time spent on the platform (71%) and session attendance numbers (68%) as useful.
Considering any data they had captured so far, respondents were asked to leave a free-text responses on what a ‘good’ virtual event looks like for their business. Conversion rate of registration to attendance, length of attendance and content downloads were given as suggestions to stimulate responses.
The comments provided suggest that organisers aim for around a 60-80% conversion rate for their virtual events, but also value profit and attendee engagement, such as session attendance and length of attendance.