We Asked 500+ Attendees What They Really Want From Your Events. Here’s What They Said.

May 2, 2023
Meisha Bochicchio
Meisha Bochicchio
Senior Content Marketing Manager at Goldcast

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Let’s be honest, there’s only so much you can learn from your post-event survey. The reality is that even in today’s digital era, event marketers are often in the dark about what attendees really want — especially when it comes to your digital offerings.

At Goldcast, we wanted to throw out the educated guesses and likely assumptions. We launched The State of B2B Events with the goal of answering one key question:

What do attendees really want from your events?

The answer to that brings both good and not-so-good news for event marketers, with only 10% of attendees rating their virtual experience as excellent.

So what exactly do attendees want? And, more importantly, how can you make it happen?

Here’s what’s topping the digital attendee’s wishlist based on 500+ answers to these exact questions.

📈 Just want the data? Download the Attendee Sentiment Report for free and instantly get one step closer to a digital event experience that wins more registrations and revenue.

What digital attendees want:

  1. Shorter sessions
  2. Hybrid and virtual options
  3. Convenience
  4. Lower costs
  5. Efficiency
  6. Networking
  7. Booths
  8. More socializing
  9. Easy access
  10. Engagement

Shorter sessions ⏱️

90% of digital attendees select sessions that are 60 minutes and under

These days, the average attention span is pretty short. So it’s not surprising attendee preferences are leaning towards shorter overall events and shorter sessions.

This attendee preference is also reflected in the dip in the number of large-scale events business professionals are attending, with 75% of respondents stating that these formats are becoming less common.

Tips for short (but strong) sessions:

  • Select the right event format to complement a shorter session length.
  • Choose your topics and speakers wisely. With 66% of attendees choosing sessions based on interest, your event content isn’t the place to cut corners.
  • Keep it actionable. Prospects come to learn. Offer key tools and takeaways they can immediately implement.

Hybrid and virtual options 💻

81% of attendees are more willing to sign up for hybrid and virtual events

What people want from events has changed. While in-person events are still a hit for networking and socializing, digital events are the clear winner when it comes to convenience, value and efficiency.

In an era where both in-person and virtual events are possible, having hybrid as a choice is a major bonus for attendees.

Tips for going digital:

  • Maximize your attendee base. With the addition of virtual events to your strategy, you cannot only take your brand global, but also increase the types of prospects in attendance and curate your content to suit a wider audience.
  • Increase your event promotion to virtual-friendly channels: email, social media, website banners, and pop-ups, paid placement, partnerships, and more.
  • Get creative with your event promo. Tap into fun, eye-catching ads and promos, from session snippets to celebrity cameos and everything in between.

Convenience 👍🏼

74% of attendees enjoy the convenience of digital events

For most event-goers, the day-to-day workload doesn’t stop just because you’ve got an event to go to. Often, attendees have to factor in the event on top of everything else. If you want to serve your audience with genuinely need-meeting events, convenience needs to stay high on the priority list.

Tips for making digital events even more convent:

  • Attendees love being able to log in from anywhere and fit viewing time around other responsibilities, which means making sure your event is mobile-optimized is a must.
  • The ability to watch recorded sessions on-demand is a huge bonus for busy attendees who may have to step out here or there. It’s also a great way to repurpose your event content and bring in more viewers after the event closes.

Lower event costs 💰

51% of respondents like that digital events are a cheaper alternative

According to our findings, 66% of businesses are restricting travel budgets. Even attendees themselves are becoming more cost-conscious. Regardless of how you price your digital events, not having to pay for transport, accommodation, and time out of office is always a win.

Tips for keeping costs low:

  • Leverage your relationships: negotiate discounts, lock in annual contracts, and barter for sponsorship deals. (Psst—see more tips on stretching the budget!)
  • Don’t scrimp on the attendee experience. Focus on what’s already working for your attendees: elevated engagement, social and gamification plugins, and stellar branding.

Greater efficiency👌🏼

48% of survey participants name efficiency as a reason they like digital events

Why spend multiple days out of the office when you can go from getting work done to joining a live networking event at the click of a mouse?

With digital events, attendees love that they can avoid stressful calendar conflicts. And with on-demand options, they never have to miss a session at multi-track events.

Tips for elevating efficiency:

  • Use an event platform that makes switching between tracks and sessions simple.
  • Record your sessions and make them available on-demand so attendees can catch up quickly if they missed anything.

Networking opportunities 🗣️

90% of attendees say networking is the #1 reason they enjoy in-person events

Networking is an in-person favorite, and with the rise of digital events, attendees expect to see the same opportunities in a virtual setting too — and we’re not just talking about group chats.

Digital events now offer a variety of networking opportunities far beyond what was possible pre-pandemic. From interactive breakout rooms to live Q&A and real-time polls, digital events have everything you need to get (and keep!) your attendees talking.

Tips for better networking:

  • Moderators are essential when it comes to networking. Not only do they help keep attendees feeling confident and safe, they can also help encourage healthy debate and even invite specific audience members on stage to share their views.
  • Certain event types lend themselves to networking more than others. In smaller, more intimate settings — like roundtables and fireside chats — people may feel more comfortable sharing. For large-scale digital conferences, you may want to utilize randomized breakout rooms to facilitate conversations more easily.

Exhibitor booths 🫱🏽‍🫲🏼

73% of respondents identify visiting exhibitor booths as something they like about in-person events

Essentially, booths are still networking. They’re just networking with sponsors, partners, and even your own sales teams. Whether it’s exchanging business cards, watching product demos, or simply schmoozing over a quick coffee, this part of the traditional in-person experience is key to nearly three-quarters of your attendees.

And while firm handshakes aren’t on the virtual agenda, there’s no reason digital events can’t replicate the exhibitor booth experience attendees are craving.

Tips for better virtual booths:

  • Add swag to your setup. 67% of respondents cite swag as an in-person treat they love. Discover which virtual swag bag ideas work best for you, your sponsors, and exhibitors, and bring your booths to life.
  • Use technology to guide your attendees to booths naturally throughout their event journey rather than making them an awkward optional experience that may go unnoticed.

A social component 🥂

67% of attendees like the social aspect of in-person events

The social side of events has always been a big draw for attendees. Whether it’s a meal out or drinks at the hotel bar, over half of event attendees say they enjoy the sales-free social event at the end of the day.

And the fun doesn’t have to stop merely because the event experience is virtual! With dozens of experiential after party ideas to choose from, you can keep the momentum going while giving your attendees exactly what they came for.

Tips for throwing a better virtual party:

Engagement levers 🤩

Resource tabs are a favorite, with 49% of attendees deeming them important

We’ve already established the importance of convenience when giving attendees what they really want from digital events. With a strong event hub or resource tab, you can provide instant access to presentation materials, articles, videos, and more.

But digital engagement doesn’t have to end there. 39% of respondents like the use of polls to guide discussions, and embedded engagement apps — think virtual photobooths and gamification — are an added bonus for 12% of attendees.

Tips for expert engagement:

  • Add polls, resource tabs, and embedded apps as your baseline engagement tools where possible and relevant.
  • Introduce gamification elements to build excitement and encourage increased networking.
  • Sync your social media with what’s happening at your event to build hype and FOMO at the same time.

Easy access 📅

51% of attendees appreciate automated calendar invites

Humans are both forgetful and easily deterred — it’s in our nature. Forget usernames, toss out the passwords, and leave those lengthy login procedures in the past where they belong.

If you want attendees to show up, you need to make it as easy as possible for folks to access your event.

Tips for acing access:

  • Set up your event platform to automatically send calendar invites straight to your attendee’s inbox.
  • Follow-up emails are great, but don’t forget the reminder email to get them there in the first place.
  • Look for magic link technology when platform shopping for seamless event entry without the need for manual re-entry of profiles, usernames, or passwords.

Give attendees what they really want

There’s been a major shift in the world of events and the truth is that sometimes, what we think attendees want isn’t actually what they want.

With the right data, you can separate signal from noise and focus on actionable steps that are aligned with your audience's real needs. At Goldcast, we’re here to help make that happen.

As the digital event platform purpose-built for field marketers, we’re always paying attention to what your prospects want. With stellar UX and all the right engagement features, you can say goodbye to clunky integrations and dated interfaces and hello to a whole new era of digital event marketing.

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