New Reed Exhibitions Research Shows Slow and Steady Adoption of Virtual Events by Exhibitors and Attendees

Frances Ferrante
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Layla Northern, Global Head of Digital Customer Insights at Reed

LONDON — The largest and most ambitious research project ever undertaken by Reed Exhibitions, “COVID-19 and How it’s Changing the Event Industry,” delves into the impact of virtual events on both exhibitors and participants. The white paper gathers feedback from nearly 3,000 exhibitors and over 9,000 attendees across 201 events and 17 Reed Exhibitions offices.

Research like this has helped the trade show giant evolve its digital offerings. “When the scale of the global pandemic started to become clear in early February, there was little in the way of formal, comparable data to help the events industry understand its immediate and longer-term impact on our customers, our events and our global marketplace,” said Layla Northern, Global Head of Digital Customer Insights at Reed.

The good news from the barometer is that both exhibitors and attendees are slowly embracing digital events. On average, visitors had tried 3.3 new digital services in June, rising to 3.5 by September. On the exhibitor side, adoption increased from 3.2 to 3.6 over that same time period.

Exhibitors are more cautious about online than attendees because of concerns about engagement, but 43% said they can still carry out the majority of their event objectives.

At Reed’s virtual WTM last month, the tourism board of Andalucia was a shining example of exhibitor success. Antonio Martín-Machuca, the board’s International Marketing Director, held almost 60 virtual meetings along with his team. “We cover all markets, and we made good deals and new U.S. and EMEA contacts. We found it very productive in terms of branding, as we were the 2020 Premier Partner.”

They also updated international media during a destination briefing and sponsored an interview with Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary.

The verdict for Martín-Machuca was positive. “Virtual meetings and the whole event page were very intuitive and easy to work with.”

On the attendee side, the new research found a slight uptick in positive sentiment, with 59% of visitors now saying they would be likely to sign up to attend an online trade event, up from 57% in June. The number of visitors who say they would like to carry out one or more event activities digitally while they are unable or unwilling to attend in person is significant and has increased consistently, from 91% in June to 94% in September.

Access the full white paper here.

Reach Layla Northern at +44 20 8271 2134 or Layla.Northern@reedexpo.co.uk