Meetings Canada


Industry Insider: Why Do People Attend Your Event?

Les Selby, CMP, CMMThe December issue of Convene, PCMA’s official print magazine, contained a great research piece on why attendees go to events.  The research was conducted as a follow up to a study that occurred in 2014 entitled “Decision to Attend Study for Conventions & Exhibits,” and was sponsored by PCMA, IAEE, Destinations International, ASAE and MPI.

The study identified five age groups of attendees and reported the differences in their responses.

For all the groups, education was the most important reason to attend an event.  The next most important reason to attend was networking.  The ability to network was most important for Millennials and least important for the “pre-Boomers.” Finally, the importance of the destination was the least important factor in deciding to attend—especially for Millennials.  I want to point out that we are discussing events and meetings here, not incentive travel programs.

I am sure that destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and CVBs have data that disputes the importance of destination in influencing people’s decision to attend a meeting or convention.  However, I know there have been great events in destinations like Hawaii that I would have loved to attend, but my senior management teams could not justify the costs against the perceived benefits.

At one point in my career, I was director of Monthly Meetings for the Toronto chapter of MPI, and our committee focused on finding great speakers and identifying relevant topics for the meetings industry.  The approach seemed to pay off as monthly meeting attendance climbed steadily throughout the year.

Have you every stopped and wondered why people show up at your meetings?  What do you offer to help them decide to attend?  Do your events contain access to respected speakers or industry experts?  Do you purposely include networking opportunities or team-building activities that encourage collaboration?  Are your education sessions interactive or are they simply a series of lectures?

If you conduct post event surveys, make sure you include some open-ended questions on what attendees saw as the benefits of attending or what they felt could have been done better.  It is more work to assemble these responses that you would have to invest with simple multiple-choice surveys, but the feedback might be much more revealing.

Everyone I know leads an extremely busy lifestyle.  Trying to balance our social needs, family responsibilities and 24/7 job connectivity is tough.  When you invite someone to attend your event, they have to decide that the time investment will be worth the discomfort of rejuggling everything else in their lives.  It is your job as a planner to design an event that will deliver results,  describe the event’s benefits accurately, and ensure you are adapting to your audience’s changing needs.

– Les Selby is the director of Meetings & Events for One10 Canada.  He has been a corporate, independent, and third party event professional for over 27 years.  Les has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting + Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, he is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board, was the 2000-2001 chapter president, and is currently a member of the MPI Foundation Canadian Council. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and received the President’s Award for 2009. He can be reached at

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