Why should I attend? The value of business networking events.

Despite the availability of sophisticated technology that could conceivably render it obsolete the events industry continues to grow. Just one year can see more than 50 million trips to events worldwide, with over 30 billion dollars of revenue generated. This study asks why attendance at MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) remains so popular. While previous research has looked at the value that companies see from such networking events, less has been said about the value individuals experience. Since many networking events attendance decisions are individually rather than company driven, even to the extent that individuals pay for their own attendance, this paper focuses on the individual value created.

Measuring this value has been identified as a key research area, with calls to "develop standardised methods and measures". Thus the second research aim of this paper is, 'how can the value created for individuals attending networking events be measured?' From interviews with delegates, organisers and speakers from networking events, this research builds on previous work to help delegates and suppliers measure and manage customer value, to better understand ROI.

This research identifies the dimensions of event value for individuals; these being "professional, learning, reputational, innovation as well as social, emotional, hedonic and relationship". They help explain continued industry growth despite the availability of more cost efficient technological substitutes. This study brings new ideas for event organisers and attendees in understanding when and where value is created and when and how it should be measured. This potentially benefits three stakeholders. On an individual level, better measures allow them to justify any individual or company time and money spent on attendance. At the company level, MICE events are one of the last bastions of accountability in a company's marketing budget and better measures help in justifying its share of the budget. On an industry level, better measures help the industry justify the value they create and give event businesses the ammunition to win more clients and fuel continued growth.

A pre-published version of the research can be downloaded at the link below. An Audioslides presentation is also available for download.

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