Business events, such as conferences and conventions, are big business
internationally. International Congress and Convention Association statistics give a good indication of the global conference market, suggesting that over the last decade, international association meetings globally have nearly doubled from 3,713 in 1997 to 6,681 in 2007.
ICCA statistics also indicate that the estimated total expenditure of delegates attending international meetings in 2007 was US$11.3 billion, or US$1.6 million per meeting. This highlights the importance of the industry and of research in this field.
As is the case for most organizations, breaking even or making a profit is often the economic aim behind holding a conference. It is not unusual for conferences to make a loss, but in the current global financial crisis, increasing pressure is being placed upon conference organizers to ensure that conferences do not make a loss.
Usually, this requires the conference organizers to maximize attendees, since it is the number of delegates attending the conference that is most influential in determining whether a conference makes a profit or loss. This is known as “delegate boosting.” At the same time, many companies are seeking ways to cut costs, and business travel is often one of the first areas of the budget to be cut, which may result in fewer delegates attending interstate or international conferences.
In view of these trends, the aim of this article is to examine the profile of a sample of conference delegates, understand their motivations for attending, and investigate the possibility of segmenting them using demographic characteristics in order to assess and identify the most effective marketing strategies for boosting delegate attendance.