It's official: Live events really do work

26th March 2010

The events industry has been working hard recently to raise its profile and garner support from the government and businesses as it looks to recapture at least some of the fantastic success it enjoyed prior to the recession.

February saw the launch of FaceTime, a marketing body for the multi-billion pound industry, which aims to champion best practice in the live events sector and provide guidance for marketers on how to make the most of the medium.

Founded by the Association of Event Organisers, the Association of Event Venues and the Event Supplier and Services Association and officially launched at Confex, the body will build insight into the industry by investing in market research with a view to helping the sector to grow.

To coincide with the unveiling of the body, FaceTime released findings from its psychological study into the power of live events, the first time research of its kind has been conducted in this country.

The study was undertaken by Cog Research across four major events in the fourth quarter of 2009 and the start of 2010 - Masterchef Live, The Boat Show, World Travel Market and BETT - and involved British and international brands including Sainsbury's, Henri Lloyd, Best Western Hotels and BLI Education.

Researchers conducted 1,160 interviews with people before and after they attended the events, analysing their state of mind prior to and following the show. It found that attending live events helps to create a positive uplift in people's attitudes towards these shows and the brands exhibiting at them. This was the case both consciously and subconsciously.

Before a show, 32 per cent of visitors viewed events as the best form of marketing due to the opportunity to interact with businesses and compare offerings, but this rose dramatically to 74 per cent after the show. One in five people were also found to have improved subconscious feelings towards the event.

As for brands, 28 per cent indicated they would buy from a company after interacting with them at a trade event, with the figure rising to 29 per cent for consumer shows.

Live events also had a positive effect on buying decisions, the research found. Before a show, 36 per cent of visitors said an exhibition made it easier to choose where to spend their money, compared to 76 per cent afterwards. In addition, prior to an event 50 per cent of visitors expected it to be the best place to find out new things and the figure rose to 85 per cent after a show.

It may seem something of an obvious point, but the study also confirmed that live events build and strengthen relationships with corporate customers. It found that 37 per cent of visitors to a trade event believed that experiencing a business first-hand makes it more memorable.

Interestingly, live events also compete well against TV. One in three people reported an uplift in positive attitudes after going to a show, compared to one in four that feel the same after watching a standard 30-second advert.

"This research authenticates what we have always known and believed to be the multi-faceted power of live events," said Austen Hawkins, chief executive of FaceTime.

"In these digital times, our research reinforces the power and relevance of a business going face-to-face with its customers, in whatever sectors you may operate in. This research provides all businesses a robust framework [for] how they can use live [events] to drive sales, engage with customers and build brand loyalty," he continued.

"We've always known that going to have a cup of tea with Grandma is much better all round than just giving her a ring on the phone, pinging a text or dropping her an email.

"The exact same principle applies to any relationship between a business and its customer. Getting face-to-face will get you the best return," Mr Hawkins concluded.