The Why and How of Federal Event Attendance

Market Connections recently conducted a survey to understand how federal decisions makers view and use events as part of their professional development and daily work. The survey included input from technology decision-makers across defense and civilian agencies and aimed to find out how they make decisions about what events to attend and what they expect when they are there.

The survey found that the topic is the main driver for event attendance with 85% citing that as the key reason they decide whether to attend an event. Price and location also play a big role in the decision to attend an event or not. Interestingly, while the topic is important, who delivers that topic is not as critical. Keynote speakers did not rank high on the list of deciding factors. Similarly, while event planners may push the opportunity for networking, that is a "nice to have" for attendees rather than a reason to spend time and money attending an event.

With the topic being so key to attendance, the survey looked at what people are interested in learning about at events. Cybersecurity was the number one topic of interest in the survey. This mirrors what we see in terms of events on our site; cybersecurity typically has the most events listed year after year. The other topics in the top five were cloud services, digital government, AI/Machine Learning, and budget/cost control/fiscal management.

Not surprisingly, with the topic being the biggest driver for event attendance, seminars and workshops are the most popular type of event. The survey showed that people are most interested in expanding their knowledge base and getting hands-on experience with new technologies. The government audience, particularly those in Defense, hold a spot in their event schedule for at least one large tradeshow/conference each year.

Even if people are interested in a particular subject matter, there are still a number of barriers to cross before getting them to an event. Budget and travel restrictions are still a reality for government attendees with over 60% citing both a lack of budget and travel restrictions as the top reasons they would not attend an event. Given this, event marketers should focus less on the cost of the event and more on the value. What will attendees get out of the event that makes it worth their time to fight for limited budget funds and plan time away to travel to an event.

One "barrier" that was not frequently cited by those surveyed was "too many events." While there are a huge number of event options out there (which you can find on Govevents.com), attendees are not feeling any event fatigue nor are they so overwhelmed by choice that they give up trying to plan event attendance. For event planners, this is great news given that it can feel like they are working in an oversaturated market.

As we've seen in recent years, the attendance at events remains steady for a government audience. In this survey, 41% said they will attend the same amount, and another 23% said they would attend more. The younger demographic is more likely to attend more events as they are trying to decide what events are valuable to them and will be their go-to events for the rest of their career.

Given that there are challenges to getting funds and the time set aside, promotion of events should take place one to three months out. Events outside of the DC metro area need to start promoting at least two months out to accommodate travel planning. The best methods to do this marketing? According to the survey, email remains the top way attendees learn about events. Associations and colleagues are the next most popular ways to learn about events showing that trusted personal (or in the case of associations, organizational) recommendations play a huge role in helping people learn about and decide to attend events.

For more details and results from the study, visit the Market Connections site.

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