Marketers look forward to attending in-person events in 2023’s first half and especially in the second half.

What about the rest of 2022? Marketers are divided down the middle.

This is according to MarTech’s 2022 Event Participation Index.

Marketers told us that they were less likely than a year ago to attend in-person conferences because of Omicron waves.

We saw a huge increase in COVID cases during the first half of this year, even though many conferences for the first half had been planned. The new variants of the virus were extremely infectious but they appeared less harmful.

The number of cases declined quickly and has remained relatively flat. The uncertainty seemed to have stopped the in-person option for approximately half of the 200 respondents to the Event Participation Index.

Fifty-three of the participants said it was “extremely unlikely” they would attend a live event in the 2022 period. 62 respondents said they were “extremely likely to” attend an in-person event. The rest of the sample fell somewhere in between these extremes.

We asked marketers again to rate their likelihood to return to in-person events this year. We also asked them how many events they had attended and how much they have budgeted for attending or exhibiting at events.

These are the results.

Marketers are ‘extremely likely to’ attend in-person events

Next year is looking brighter. Nearly twice as many respondents said they were “extremely likely” than “extremely unlikely”, to attend in-person events during the first half 2023.

For the second half next year, optimism reigns. 80 people are “extremely probable” to attend live events and 40 others are either highly likely or very likely to do so. Only 19 people were “extremely unlikely to get aboard.”

Many people thought, however, that a virtual element should be retained. One Event Participation Index respondent said:

  • “Given the challenges of travel and climate change, I believe events should have online virtual opportunities that can be both synchronous or asynchronous and facilitate in person gatherings in the area where people are. You might have people from Philly, London, and Chicago. You can host small, intimate networking events in each of your cities so that attendees can meet in their own neighborhoods while also attending conference sessions that could be streamed from any location.

Event organizers should require vaccination

A strong majority believed that attendees should be vaccinated and presumably, although we did not ask, boosted, but that event organizers should also mandate vaccination.

Logically, this would imply that you also need to check for evidence of vaccination.

More than half of our respondents (121) wanted mandatory vaccinations. 77 respondents said no, but that doesn’t mean they are against vaccinations (or unvaccinated).

Attendance levels: What’s the new normal?

Resuming in-person events does not necessarily mean a return to normal.

One Event Participation Index respondent predicted that attendance would be at pre-pandemic levels for 2022.

HubSpot predicted that Inbound attendance would drop by around 10-15% in 2019 compared to 2019. Despite this, Inbound featured a large virtual component so the overall audience was likely to have been higher than previous live-only editions.

It remains to see if offering audiences the option of in-person or virtual attendance will reduce live attendance. The virus problem isn’t the only problem. There’s also the cost and chaos of air travel.

We were told by one Event Participation Index participant:

  • “Expensive travel and horrific travel experiences make it difficult for me to recommend in-person events.”

Another respondent said:

  • “If event attendance drops, I don’t believe it’ll be due COVID. I have been to concerts, ballgames, and other crowded events. People seem to be living their lives again.”

Here’s what the survey respondents did or are doing this year.

It was fairly evenly split between those who attended zero events (77), and those who attended one or two events (I went at two or three).

Attendance at multiple events fell sharply, with only eight brave warriors able to experience ten or more shows in-person.

  • “Seeing how easily events can be found online has made it harder to justify spending money on travel for in-person events. Although networking may be an important component of the online world, it is not always enough to justify attending in person.

Event planners have a budget

A strong majority (154) of respondents had the budget to travel to at most a few events during the remainder of this year. Only a small percentage (22) had the funds to attend many events.

For exhibiting, 46 had the budget to cover at least some events and 19 had the funds for many. This means that around one-third have at least some exhibiting costs covered.

There’s no way to please everyone. I get bored by online and in-person events.

Search Engine Land’s first article, Future of in-person events: Marketers expected to return in 2023, appeared first on Search Engine Land.