As we head towards the end of a second pandemic-influenced year, sports and entertainment facilities are back up to full capacity, albeit with varying levels of mask and vaccine requirements. This holiday season feels a bit more normal, as family gatherings are becoming routine and larger group celebrations are being reintroduced. With this shift to comfort in gathering, we wanted to take the pulse of the government community. As we've done twice before, we reached out to our members to gauge their interest in and readiness for professional events.
At the time of the survey fielding (November 2021), 73% of respondents said they would be comfortable attending an in-person event in 2022. Within this response, we looked at people who had responded "no" to attending in-person events on the last survey (August 2021), and about 50% of those people changed their response to"yes." In August, our survey found only 51% comfortable with attending an in-person event by the end of 2021, a 24% decrease from the responses in May. However, with the most recent rise in readiness back up to 73%, public comfort with in-person events is back to what it was in the spring of 2021.
Timing, Size, and Travel Not Factors in Decisions
Looking at the when, who, and where, of events, we found there are no magic formulas to guarantee in-person attendance. When digging deeper on the timeframe for attending in-person events in 2022, we found that 31% would do so immediately. The second largest response was 23% saying May or later, showing a pretty even split between people wanting to attend now and those waiting a few more months.
In terms of size, we saw a greater mix of comfort levels with 52% saying they would attend an event of any size, and 20% preferring a group of 20 or less. This ratio of responses was similar when we asked about travel. Fifty percent are comfortable flying and staying in a hotel, while 29% want the event to be in driving distance.
The Vaccination Question
We asked, "Would you feel comfortable attending an event with a mix of people who may/may not have been vaccinated." Responses were fairly even, with 44% saying yes they would be comfortable with a mix, and 56% saying they would not be comfortable. This response represents a shift of 40% of previous "yes" respondents changing their answer to "no" and 39% of previous "no" respondents changing to "yes." This similar shift on both sides was represented in the fairly even attitude about the need for a vaccine to attend.
When we broke down these responses based on government sector we found an interesting difference. While Defense and State & Local respondents were split 50/50 on this question, the Federal audience leaned heavily toward consistency in vaccination -- 68% saying they would not be comfortable attending an event with a mix of vaccination status.
Even with the comfort of attending an event with a mix of vaccination status, an overwhelming majority, 81%, said they would attend an event that required vaccination. This indicates that proof of vaccination is not a hindrance to attendance. This was also enforced by our question, "What would an event have to do at a minimum to make you feel comfortable attending?" 50% cited a vaccine passport or negative test requirement. Socially distant seating, hand sanitizer, and masks also ranked high on the list of safety expectations.
Online Still Stands in the Way of In-Person's Comeback
Similar to our previous surveys we found that 64% said if an event was offered both in-person and online, they would choose online in 2022. Interestingly, when we broke this question out by sector, Defense was the biggest proponent of online vs in-person with 90% choosing the online option. Federal and State & Local responses were both around 60%. We asked people why they chose online and the top response was convenience both in terms of time and cost. Not having to travel meant more time with family as well as more time to focus on work duties.
So what will make people leave their comfy pants at home and attend an event in person? Location was the biggest draw with 57% citing it as the way to get them to attend. Maybe this is a response to being at home for so long as the desire to see and experience new things can be a good motivator. The location was a much bigger draw than the type of event as social events only enticed 31%. Networking opportunities and opportunities to visit booths and vendors also ranked high for an in-person draw. When asked why they prefer in-person people said it is easier to get to know attendees and the instructor when you are all in one physical location, also the learning environment is more familiar and comfortable in-person.
2022: In-Person's Year
Despite the preference for online events, respondents did not point to a huge growth in attendance. 63% said they would attend the same number of online events they did in 2021. We did see a good bit of "Zoom fatigue" cited in the comments as people long to be back in person for a stronger engagement in events and the content. Since we expect in-person attendance to grow over 2020 and 2021, we asked people to compare their 2022 attendance plans with 2019. 47% said they would attend about the same as they did in 2019, with 32% reducing the number attended. Those attending less largely cited COVID-related concerns as the reason they would not attend as many events.
We'll continue to monitor the return of in-person events and track the attendance. You can always find a healthy mix of all event types on GovEvents.
For the full survey results, click here.