Planners lack delegates’ desire for virtual experiences

New research from American Express Meetings & Events has identified an ‘expectation gap’ between the technologies meeting planners believe should be incorporated into an event, and the solutions attendees expect to be part of their meeting experience.

Titled ‘Great Expectations: The Evolving Landscape of Technology in Meetings’, the survey reveals the similarities and gaps in attendee and planner expectations across three areas of technological advancement: virtual and hybrid meetings, social media and events apps.

“Over the past decade, smartphones and wireless data have revolutionised the meeting and events experience for both planners and attendees, enabling the possibility of anywhere, anytime participation via virtual technologies and the integration of apps into meeting programmes,” says Issa Jouaneh (pictured), Vice-President and General Manager, AMEX Meetings & Events.

“Our research has found, however, there can be an ‘expectation gap’ between the technologies meeting planners believe should be incorporated into an event, and the solutions attendees expect to be part of their meeting experience. What they have in common is that as good as technology is, there is simply no substitute for in-person meetings.”

Meeting apps have increased in popularity at large industry conferences and events as they provide the ability to deliver real-time information to attendees right at their fingertips. According to the research, 67 per cent of meeting planners found event apps to be important, compared to 55 per cent of attendees.

Communication and scheduling ranked among the most important features within a meeting app for both planners and attendees, and the ability to participate in games and contests is least important to both groups.

Both attendees and planners cited having access to event schedules and session descriptions as key, and attendees explained that they often use meeting apps to schedule meetings with exhibitors and other attendees while on site.

The use of social media in the meeting and events space has grown exponentially in recent years, although the study revealed that it is more vital to meeting planners than to attendees; with 43 per cent of planners feeling social media capabilities are very important, while only 35 per cent of attendees felt the same way.

Similarly, only 39 per cent of attendees felt that posting and reading commentary or reviews about a meeting or event is very important, while 50 per cent of planners felt that way.

Participating in games and contests via social media ranked low among both groups, with 54 per cent of attendees and 41 per cent of planners indicating that this feature was not important.
Nearly three-quarters of attendees surveyed (74%) and 85 per cent of planners believe that in-person meetings offer greater value because they enable more opportunities for social interaction.

While the number of virtual meetings offered and attended continues to grow, meeting organisers and technology providers still need to work on the overall experience, as 47 per cent of attendees and 49 per cent of planners agree that it’s difficult to participate when attending virtually and 68 per cent of planners feel that attendees are too easily distracted when they attend virtually.

The study showed that attendees are nonetheless looking for more opportunities to attend meetings virtually: 63 per cent of attendees agreed they would attend more meetings and events virtually if the option were available. However, planners don’t seem to realise that this appetite exists: 48 per cent of the planners surveyed did not agree that attendees would attend more meetings and events virtually if the option were available.  Moreover, 45 per cent of attendees believed virtual attendance should be available for all meetings and events, while only 35 percent of planners agreed.

AMEX Meetings & Events surveyed 336 meeting planners and 161 meeting and event attendees in the first half of 2014 for the survey. Respondents were primarily based in North America.
 
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Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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