This May, after the CDC updated their public health guidance around masking and social distancing for vaccinated individuals, GovEvents surveyed its members to find out what government professionals were comfortable with in terms of in-person events. Feedback from event planners at the beginning of 2021 showed they were beginning to plan toward a hybrid event schedule, looking to introduce in-person events in the late summer or fall. Now that schedule seems to be a reality based both on health guidance and attendee attitudes.
The GovEvents survey of 275+ public sector professionals found that nearly 75% of respondents would be comfortable attending an event in-person sometime in 2021.
34% of respondents said they would be willing to attend an event as soon as June. Another 35% said they would attend this summer, and 31% said they'd feel comfortable attending events in October or later.
Initial conversations about events coming back theorized that small, local events would be the first to return, providing a test case of how to run events in the new normal. But, based on the response to the survey, size did not seem to impact attendance decisions as 55% said they would be comfortable attending an event of any size. Similarly, 55% reported they are comfortable flying to an event and staying at a hotel. The number of those who preferred to stay local was virtually the same as those who did not want to attend at all--both right around 22%. Outside events are still the most palatable for attendees, with 65% saying if an event were held outside, they would be more likely to attend.
What Makes An Event Safe
If an outdoor event is not plausible, what safety and health requirements do public sector attendees expect to see at an event? Hand sanitizer stations, socially distanced seating, mandatory masks, and temperature checks were the top four accommodations people said they would expect. A quarter of respondents reported that no requirements are needed for them to attend.
Even with this level of comfort, events are implementing procedures and rules above and beyond sanitizer and spacing. The HIMSS show, which had to shut down just hours before opening in March 2020, will hold its 2021 event in-person and is requiring proof of vaccination to attend. The feelings on vaccination from our respondents were mixed. 56% said they would be comfortable attending an event with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, while 29% said they would like to see attendees holding a vaccine passport or testing negative within 48 hours of the event.
Online Is Still A Viable Option
With all of this positivity for in-person gatherings, when asked, "If an event is offered both online and in-person, which type are you more likely to attend?" 61% responded online. In fact, over 68% of respondents say they plan to attend the same amount or more online events this year. Respondents cited the convenience and cost savings of not having to travel as well as being able to more easily see and digest information on their own screens and on their own time. Respondents also mentioned that they were unsure when their organizations would lift travel restrictions.
Despite all the talk of zoom fatigue, the acceptance of online events shows that organizations cannot go back to business as usual. The ability to meet in person simply adds to the event mix for government professionals and does not replace the interest in online events for professional development. The biggest challenge to getting back to in-person events was thought to be implementing safety measures, but now it looks like it may be content. With basic safety in place, in-person events will need something special or unique to draw people away from their screens. We'll plan to dive into what those elements might be in a future survey.
Whether in-person or online (or a mix of both), you can find the most extensive list of public sector events on GovEvents.com. Currently, there are 860+ upcoming events and another 1200+ on-demand listed on the site with topics as diverse as cybersecurity, workforce management, defense spending, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, and acquisition strategy. Search for your area of interest today.
Watch the interview! GovEvents' President, Kerry Rea, breaks down the survey data into key takeaways for government event organizers moving forward.