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Expos or exclusivity? Using event feedback to track delegates’ views

A split image of a trade show on the left versus an exclusive dinner setting on the right to illustrate a comparison of event feedback for these two types of gathering.

Corporate events were among the areas hardest hit by the pandemic. An Events Industry Council report states that the sector had cumulative losses of $1.9tn between 2020 and 2022. To successfully rebound, organizers need to scrutinize and act on delegates’ event feedback.

Pandemic disruption forced the sector to reimagine events in an online-only space. While in-person gatherings have returned, event companies need to continue innovating, rather than expecting the sector to return to pre-pandemic norms.

Among post-pandemic event industry trends is a shift from large expos to more exclusive gatherings. But why are corporate event delegates making this change? The key to finding out is through event feedback analysis.

Getting attendees’ thoughts and feelings requires organizers to harness text data analysis. How they talk about business events is vital to making changes that satisfy their demands. This can come from multiple sources, including post-event surveys or even online conversations about gatherings.

To pinpoint reasons for broader event industry trends, Relative Insight used the latter. Leveraging a social listening tool to gather conversations since 2022, we analyzed online event feedback amounting to over 1m words.

Our analysis focused on how delegates talked about traditional expos and trade shows versus their views on more exclusive and personalized events, such as roundtables and dinners. The comparison highlighted why corporate events are trending towards the latter.

Traditional business events fail to move the needle

Attendees’ views on traditional trade shows can be summarized in one word: ritualistic. Our event feedback analysis highlighted that delegates view these events as habitual.

People talking about expos were infinitely more likely to employ the phrase ‘this year’. They also used the word ‘return’ 26.7x more and phrase ‘great to be back’ 58.2x more. This demonstrates that trade show attendance is ingrained for many delegates; a tradition they follow from year to year.

Confirmed! I’m returning to the expo this year. Will be good to catch up with everyone.

While this offers a regular cohort of attendees, this also limits their value to new delegates seeking to reach new audiences. Indeed, conversations about trade shows featured the word ‘same’ 15.2x more, as well as the phrase ‘not changed’ infinitely more. This suggests a lack of innovation from these types of gatherings.

The event is the same even after Covid. Don’t know if it’s worth going to see the same people discuss similar things.

The intrenched nature of trade shows is a blessing and a curse for organizers. While there’s a core audience who will always attend, their repetitive nature suggests that other delegates experience diminishing returns. This explains why delegates are pivoting towards different types of gatherings.

Attendees’ event feedback around exclusive gatherings contains expected and unexpected insights.

Unsurprisingly, discussions around these business events used words related to the topic of ‘premium’ 27.7x more, including ‘exclusivity’ and ‘quality’. It’s also predictable that these conversations referenced ‘leadership’ 4.2x more, with people more likely to talk about ‘CEOs’ (12.5x), ‘founders’ (39.1x) and ‘executives’ (130.3x).

Last night at a corporate dinner I explained music royalty investing to a table of executives. They were fascinated.

However, event feedback extended beyond simply having decision makers at the table. With only a few people to network with, attendees were more likely to remember the conversations they had.

They used words relating to ‘communication’ 2.5x more, including ‘discussion’, ‘story’ and ‘chat’. Not only were conversations held with more senior people, these discussions were more impactful for delegates.

It was an evening filled with engaging conversations, delicious food, and meaningful connections.

As well as greater impact, attendees give these discussions greater priority. They were 2.2x more likely to use words related to ‘importance’ when discussing discrete events, such as ‘valuable’, ‘critical’ and ‘meaningful’.

Really enjoyed a meaningful AI discussion at a roundtable last night. Some valuable contributions that made me reevaluate how we’re using it.

Event feedback analysis demonstrates preference for exclusive events

By using text analytics to investigate event industry trends, it’s easy to identify why corporate events are shifting away from trade shows into more exclusive settings. Analyzing event feedback shows that conversations at discrete gatherings carry greater weight, are more memorable and have greater value.

People attending exclusive networking events feel they learn something, or get to hear interesting stories. In contrast, trade show guests attend out of a sense of tradition. Their objective is to network with regular attendees, rather than to see something new.

Relative Insight’s text analysis software not only highlights the reasons behind trends, it tracks them on an ongoing basis. As the business events sector continues to evolve, the platform can analyze shifting trends by comparing conversations over time.

For example, if discussions around trade shows shift from being ingrained networking events to regular attendees questioning their value, Relative Insight’s software would identify this.

Need ongoing insight into industry trends? Try Relative Insight’s text analytics software for free to keep a pulse on what’s happening in your sector.

Analyze industry trends over time