From Dec. 11-13, Expo! Expo!, the annual conference and exhibition of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), was held in Louisville, Ky. My co-founder, Oliver Rowe, and I made the decision to exhibit at the event, as we felt the association and show organizer audience was right for us. Here are four things we learned from our discussions at the event and its content:
In-Person Is Back—With a Vengeance
Not a single planner we talked to was planning virtual events. Everyone’s inquiries related to their in-person annual conference or education session. This is extremely notable, as even 12 months ago discussion still centered on hybrid. While planners are continuing to lean on virtual for monthly education sessions, they are doing so on Zoom versus going to a virtual event platform to save costs. Attendance for some of our clients was more than 50% of what they had initially expected. I believe this trend will continue in 2023.
Data, Data, Data
While in-person is, without a doubt, returning, sponsors and decision-makers got used to more specific data points when virtual event platforms were used. VenuIQ has offered attendee tracking since 2015, but never has it been more relevant. As organizers move away from virtual events, which for them were data-rich (knowing who saw what, who and when), and move back to in-person events (where typically, it’s a quick scan in or out, or something with far too much friction or erroneous data like manual head counts), they’re trying to get more automated, frictionless, actionable intelligence to help them improve the event next time and truly understand how attendees engage with various areas.
Rethinking Online Options
Organizers seem to have learned from the errors of last year’s in-person returns, especially at events that thrive on the in-person element. Online content from the event is often no longer live streamed at the same time as the event, as it gives attendees a reason not to go in-person. As such, organizers are making the live content only available immediately to those in the room, which has helped drive up on-site numbers. It’s a great idea, and you still have all that content to share post-event, which can further expand your audience. You can also put a small price on the online content to help with the monetization of your event.
Last year, as part of our Viva Series on TSNN, we discussed conferences as the new workplace, and how unique destinations will be used more frequently. BizBash/Connect, part of Tarsus Group, held one of their main conferences in Puerto Rico in 2022, and Expo! Expo! followed that trend as well by selecting Louisville, the home of the Kentucky Derby and the Urban Bourbon Trail. The opening reception was held within the VIP areas at Churchill Downs, one of the most unique and multi-level events we’ve attended recently.
Oliver Rowe, co-founder of VenuIQ, also contributed to this article.
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