The Event Professor is in.


Return to Live Events Survey

A lot has changed in the weeks since my last story on government stimulus programs. Unlike the previous crises I mentioned, this time the entire event sector worldwide has ground to a halt. And while well-executed government stimulus will play a large role in the recovery, our friends and colleagues in the event sector need a lot of questions answered before they can return to business.
Everyone's first question is: when will live events return? Unfortunately, there cannot be a single definitive answer. Governments will make most of these decisions and their jurisdictions cross over hundreds if not thousands of regions at many levels. The re-opening dates and criteria will vary widely.
So how can we prepare? The moment any live event is given the go-ahead by authorities, they will want to have plans in place. 

To help with this process, Enigma Research conducted a large-scale survey of 2,000 event-goers of all types, to learn about their concerns, expectations, and motivations when returning to the events they love.


It was initially suggested that this research could be funded and shared exclusively among the largest sports leagues and event promoters. Or it could be sold on a subscription basis to organizations that could afford such services. 
However, the best recovery possible will depend on events of all sizes re-opening, so Enigma has decided to make the full results available at no cost to all events, agencies, brands, and governments worldwide. 
That’s right. If you’re reading this, you get the full results, not just a cheap white paper with the option to purchase the rest! Nothing will be hidden behind a paywall. 
To ensure that our results would serve the entire industry, we approached leading event-related associations and media and asked them to partner with us. I would like to take this opportunity to thank executives from Exhibitor Media GroupIAFEIFEANorthstar Meetings Group, and SportsTravel for signing on without hesitation. Their assistance with the study design and distribution will ensure this data serves industry stakeholders across all genres.


Now let's answer some of your burning questions! 
Our survey of past event attendees has shown that - unsurprisingly - live events have been greatly missed. Respondents shared that they were longing for live entertainment, food, beverages, and the sights, sounds, and energy from crowds.

Once large gatherings resume, 76% will be "extremely" or "very" likely to return. Only 8% will be unlikely to return. While this small group was primarily concerned about the virus, many among them also believe that distancing rules and other measures would make returning unpleasant.
Regarding timing- nearly 50% of survey respondents are prepared to return within a week or two of events resuming in their region. Some wish to wait longer and 20% would wait more than three months. There is also a very vocal segment of event-goers who declare that they will not return to live events until there is a vaccine.

Tourism events and their partners will be pleased to know that those who previously enjoyed traveling to events will continue to do so. Among event-goers who had traveled to an event within the past 24 months, 69% are "extremely" or "very" likely to travel to another city or town for a live event once they resume.


Our survey questioned event-goers regarding various safety precautions and how each would influence their likelihood to return. Many would be more likely to return if events implemented the types of measures used recently in other public places, including more sanitation stations, requirements for workers to wear masks, or contactless payment and security systems.
Additionally, many would appreciate more extensive precautions such as enforcement of social distancing at events, body temperature checks at entrances, and extended hours to allow for thinner crowds. 

Some even indicated that they would be willing to pay a higher admission cost if it meant that fewer people could attend and social distancing could be maintained. However, it must be noted these very same measures would make other event-goers less likely to attend, so events will need to choose their implementations carefully.
When it comes to incentives, a large segment of event-goers have been affected by the slowing economy so price-related promotions would work best. Most would be more likely to return to an event if it offered discounted tickets or packages including food, merchandise, or accommodations. Some showed an interest in special events or days honoring front-line crisis workers, but this did not top the list of motivators.


Our survey showed that on average, 38% of event-goers felt "very favorable" towards sponsors and brands that supported live events they have attended. In contrast, 58% feel the same way regarding sponsors that continue to support cancelled or postponed events! This is a unique opportunity for brands to gain substantial loyalty by simply making alterations to existing sponsorships.
Traditional on-site activations would, of course, need to be replaced by virtual activations, which could cleverly remind fans how much they love their favorite events (and their sponsors). 

Unfortunately, event-goers in our survey did not have much enthusiasm for virtual event alternatives but your Event Professor is convinced that any of the Top 40 Exhibit Producers could bring forward creative solutions to bridge this gap. (But please... if they propose the words "challenging" or "unprecedented times”, find a new agency!)


Market researchers love surveys that provide clear roadmaps. Despite my hopes, I must report that this is not one of them, as almost all the results are divided. 

For every person who wants events reopened tomorrow there is someone who plans to stay away. Some event-goers think the virus is a hoax, while others swear that events reopening will trigger a second wave. 
An event could gain a customer by enforcing a security measure only to lose another for the same reason. One section in our report contains hundreds of verbatim comments which will convince you that it will be impossible to please everyone.
My advice to event professionals is to use Enigma's data as a guide or a starting point. Combine it with experience, trusted opinions, and your own gut feeling before making decisions for your event. A smart decision can please many customers but there will also be strong opposition, so be ready with your justification. 

Most event pros I have worked with have dealt with controversy before, so hopefully those skills can be put to use here!


Finally, it is time for my readers to see the full report. You can download it here or obtain it from any of the partners listed earlier. Please share this story and the report with every event, agency, brand, and government you know. 
When events finally resume, I’m looking forward to sharing even more Event Professor Stories with you!

I have researched 1000+ events worldwide and love to share stories. Please contact me if you want to discuss anything from visitor surveys to economic impact to sponsorship ROI measurement. 

Want to learn more about life as an Enigma researcher? Visit us on LinkedInFacebook, or Instagram.
Yours in challenging times,
Michael, The Event Professor

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