American Express Meetings & Events research reveals 'expectation gap' between meeting planners & attendees

American Express Meetings & Events have released new research exploring the many ways emerging technologies are changing the meetings industry landscape, as well as how that innovation can be harnessed to increase engagement and productivity and generate a greater return on a meetings investment. The report, entitled 'GREAT EXPECTATIONS: The Evolving Landscape of Technology in Meetings', 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.

Issa Jouaneh, Vice President and General Manager, American Express Meetings & Events, commented: “Over the past decade, smartphones and wireless data have revolutionized 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 programs. These technologies provide planners with greater opportunities to increase engagement and generate and capture real-time feedback, while attendees can gain a richer and more connected experience throughout the event life cycle.

“What our research has found, however, is that 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.”

The research shows that 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. 67% of meeting planners found event apps to be important, compared to 55% 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 was 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, with meeting planners and attendees using social tools to communicate, obtain information and share feedback in real time. The study revealed that social media is more vital to meeting planners than to attendees, with 43% of planners feeling social media capabilities are very important, while only 35% of attendees felt the same way. While creating social media buzz has become a significant part of the overall marketing strategy of meetings and events, having a meetings hashtag is more important to planners than to attendees with 41% of planners indicating it is extremely or very important.

The surveyed attendees and planners cited a wide variety of reasons as to why they attend virtual meetings and events, but both strongly agreed that in-person attendance continues to provide the best overall experience. Of those surveyed, 74% of attendees and 85% 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% of attendees and 49% of planners agree that it’s difficult to participate when attending virtually and 68% of planners feel that attendees are too easily distracted when they attend virtually.

That being said, the study showed that attendees are nonetheless looking for more opportunities to attend meetings and events virtually: 63% of attendees agreed they would attend more meetings and events virtually if the option were available, while only 17% disagreed. However, 48% of the planners surveyed did not agree that attendees would attend more meetings and events virtually if the option were available. Moreover, 45% of attendees believed virtual attendance should be available for all meetings and events, while only 35% of planners agreed. Interactive features such as surveys, real-time Q&A and other techniques used in meetings can help keep virtual attendees engaged, making the time and cost invested worthwhile.

336 meeting planners and 161 meeting and event attendees were surveyed in the first half of 2014. The survey was fielded globally, however respondents were primarily based in North America. Planners were required to have planned at least 4 meetings with more than 20 attendees in the past 12 months, including at least 1 virtual or hybrid meeting. Attendees were required to have attended at least 3 meetings or events with 20 or more attendees in the past 12 months, including at least 1 virtual or hybrid meeting.

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