Many marketers unlikely to attend in-person conferences until COVID-19 vaccine

The majority of marketers say they will not attend any conferences or live events in 2020 unless a vaccine is available that would protect them from COVID-19.

In fact, more than 66% of those surveyed said they would only attend online or virtual events in the fourth quarter without a proven vaccine in place.

More than 250 marketers answered our survey. The majority hailed from the United States, though we saw many respondents from regions in Europe and Asia.

Overall, respondents said there was just a 4-out-of-10 chance they would attend a conference through the rest of the year.

That sentiment comes as the United States this week passed 80,000 deaths tied to coronavirus and many states are beginning to lift restrictions aimed at enforcing social distancing.

Several vaccines are being developed and tested now, and one has moved into Phase II trials. 

What can we do

Like restaurants, concert halls, sporting events and other businesses that rely on bringing people together for shared experiences, the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the trade show and conference businesses.

In addition to major conferences like SXSW, HIMSS and Dreamforce, small shows across the country have canceled. And like us, which ran our Discover MarTech event virtually in April and will be running our SMX Next event online in June, many conferences have pivoted to digital formats. 

But the value and experience for attendees, exhibitors, speakers and marketers is hard to replicate in a webinar platform. That’s why we asked our survey audience what organizers can do to make the prospect of attending a conference in the fall more acceptable to them.

“Regular temperature checks and a way to allow for distance, but still an opportunity to network or go to booths,” wrote one respondent. “Limited numbers, seating charts, adhering and showing how you’re adhering to all health guidelines ahead of the event,” wrote another.

But even those precautions may not allay fears.

“Even if you took extensive precautions, I don’t know if it would be enough to make everyone feel safe,” one respondent said.

In order to track how that sentiment is changing, we will be redeploying the survey every few weeks. We will publish results on MarTech Today, Search Engine Land and Marketing Land.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.

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About The Author

Henry Powderly is vice president of content for Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than a decade in editorial leadership positions, he is responsible for content strategy and event programming for the organization.

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