Prospect for in-person conferences fades for 2020

There’s a 30% chance that marketers will attend a conference this year.

The likelihood that marketers will attend an in-person conference or event before the end of 2020 continues to fade, according to the latest data from MarTech Today’s Event Participation Index.

In fact, marketers on average gave the likelihood that they would attend an event in the fourth quarter a 3 out of 10 chance, compared to 4 out of 10 when we first asked the question in late April.

Event Participation Index: Likelihood marketers would attend an in-person conference through the end of 2020.

Overall, 69% of marketers we surveyed said they would only attend virtual/online events this year unless a COVID-19 vaccine is available, a slight uptick compared to 66% who answered the same question more than a month ago.

Unfortunately for conference producers, there still is no vaccine for COVID-19. Several candidates are in development but experts still largely say the earliest we may see a vaccine will be in the first quarter of 2021.

Meanwhile, many fall conferences have already canceled. Salesforces’ mega-show, Dreamforce, will be held virtually, as will Hubspot’s Inbound conference.

With the coronavirus pandemic still gripping the world, many employers are continuing to bar their employees from traveling for work purposes, which would include attending a trade show or conference. Out of the nearly 300 marketers we surveyed, around 30% said their employers have extended travel bans through the end of the year.

With many conferences going virtual, like our own Discover MarTech and SMX Next events, the good news for marketers is there are still ample opportunities for them to get educated on tactics, to share best practices, and to hear how successful companies, teams or individuals are elevating the craft. In fact, this forced pivot to virtual has given marketers access to content they previously had to pay thousands for since most of these online shows have been free for attendees.

Of course, the benefits of in-person events when it comes to networking and the overall experience are hard to replicate in virtual shows. And for event organizers struggling after losing so much revenue tied to in-person events, this upheaval continues to sting.

We will continue to field this Event Participation Index into 2021.