In May 2021, shortly after the CDC revised their guidance saying that vaccinated individuals did not need to wear masks, we surveyed our members to get a pulse on their comfort level attending in-person events. At that time, we found that 75% of respondents would be comfortable attending an in-person event in 2021. Size or location (need to travel) did not seem to affect their willingness to attend. Things were looking up for in-person gatherings while enthusiasm for online events also remained high.
Now as fall begins--the time of year we thought would usher in more in-person comfort and opportunities--we're looking at a dramatically different scenario when it comes to public health guidance and infection statistics. To see how attitudes about in-person events may have changed over the summer, we reached back out to survey respondents. We polled new public sector employees and we went back to those who had responded "Yes" to "I would feel comfortable attending an in-person event in 2021" to ask the same set of questions we did in May.
Weighing Multiple Factors, In-Person Is Still a Preference for Many
Among new respondents, 51% reported they would feel comfortable attending an in-person event in 2021. This is down considerably from the 73% who responded "Yes" in May. Our survey of previous "Yes, I'll attend in person" respondents also found a drop in their interest in attending live events. 61% percent now said they would feel comfortable attending an in-person event in 2021 and 47% said the new COVID variants are impacting their decision to return to events.
In our original survey, a majority of respondents said they were ready to attend events in June, with October being the next highest rated month (five months out from survey). In this recent survey among new respondents, 48% say they would wait until 2022 to consider attending an event in person. The survey of previously willing attendees found 45% ready to attend in person immediately with another 1/3 preferring to wait until 2022.
Size of event or travel requirements still does not seem to impact people's willingness to attend, with 52% saying they would attend any size event. For the other half of respondents, smaller events (25 participants or under) were ranked as more appealing, and 38% said they would be willing to travel. Based on comments we received, the lower travel numbers may be due more to budget pressures as well as agency restrictions on travel.
These findings indicate that people who are attending really want to be at the event. They are carefully weighing all options and making decisions accordingly. For event planners, this means an incredibly engaged and committed audience.
What Makes an Event Safe?
For people to attend in-person events the most requested mitigation tactics were masking, sanitization stations, and social distance measures. This was similar across the original survey and the two new survey groups.
We did see a slight divergence in attitudes when it came to vaccine requirements between the two recent survey groups. Among new respondents, 59% said they would not feel comfortable attending an event with a mix of vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals. In comparison, the group of previous respondents were split pretty evenly about the need for a vaccine/negative test requirement, with 45% preferring an all vaccinated audience and 55% ok with a mix. These percentages were about the same in the original survey conducted in May.
Online Continues to Dominate
Even with all of the optimism and acceptance of in-person events in May, our survey found that 61% would choose online attendance if an event was offered both online and in-person. That number climbed to 67% among our new respondents. 52% percent of previous respondents reported preferring online to in-person attendance given the choice. So, even among those most comfortable attending in-person, online remains a huge draw.
We're continuing to monitor the appetite for and the reality of in-person events. No matter how quickly attitudes shift, GovEvents will be here with a full list of online and in-person options for the government community to continue to connect and learn.