New research reveals the meetings and events sector has some work to do to rise to the challenge of encouraging networking, with only a third of executives saying they look forward to the opportunities presented by events.
A survey of 2,000 UK executives by event and hospitality technology company Cvent and research agency Atomik shows 28 per cent of respondents often feel disinterested in networking during meetings and events, even going so far as to say they use the time to make business calls or check work emails on their mobile devices.
A further 20 per cent said they were happy to attend simply for the food and drinks rather than the networking opportunity.
Sixteen per cent felt added stress to attend such events and engage with their industry peers, and two-thirds believe their boss expects them to return from networking with a business lead or having converted an existing opportunity.
The findings may offer some insight for travel managers arranging trips to such events for executives, giving them a glance into what is expected of their colleagues in terms of return on investment for the business.
Cvent says the survey results can also help event planners and encourages them to consider alternative ways of engaging attendees for networking events.
Patrick Smith, chief marketing officer of Cvent, commented: “Business owners across the country invest incredible amounts of time and money for their employees to attend business networking events. Networking plays a vital role in growing a business – nothing is better than meeting face to face to get business done. Yet our research reveals that while employees are aware of the overarching expectation to either generate new leads or make valuable professional connections, there is a disconnect between these expectations and the ability to actually execute on them. Overcoming these obstacles requires the active participation from both event organisers who are planning these events and business owners who are sending their employees.
“Event planners need to be prepared to think about engaging attendees prior, during and even after the event so the connections made onsite can be cultivated into long-term business relationships. Our survey results illustrate that there is a desire for this kind of offering and it can be facilitated through the use of mobile event apps and other digital platforms. In addition, event organisers should be prepared to consider how they could change a potentially tired format so attendees feel enthused and inspired to connect with other attendees.”
The research also revealed that more than half (52 per cent) of respondents have not been provided with networking training, though 29 per cent would be interested in learning more about networking. More than a quarter (27 per cent) said they find it easier to engage when the organiser provides a list of attendees.
Giving credence to the power of technology, 23 per cent of attendees suggested events could be improved if they were provided with a mobile app to allow attendees to connect before, during and after the event, while the same amount cited mobile apps and social media as untapped opportunities to further engage with other attendees outside of the event.