Conference delegates should reap the professional benefits of networking, according to new survey from Conference Leeds

Conference delegates should reap the professional benefits of networking, according to new survey from Conference Leeds

The UK has hosted 1.02million conferences in the last year alone, generating an outstanding £16.3 billion for the economies of popular conference destinations1

As one of the leading conference destinations in the UK, Leeds has seen huge success in the last 12 months, welcoming 2.5 million delegates to 32,600 business events, which has brought £413 million direct expenditure to the city2

Leeds consistently provides conference organisers and their delegates an exceptional conference experience. In a new survey, the city’s conferencing bureau, Conference Leeds has revealed exactly what today’s delegates are looking for from their conference experience, and what organisers should consider when planning their programmes. 

The new data demonstrated what aspects of a conference will encourage delegates to be a more active attendee3. The top five responses are: 

  1. An engaging conference environment (37%)
  2. Entertainment (25%)
  3. Networking sessions (21%)
  4. Socialising (21%)
  5. Group exercise classes (20%)

The survey has highlighted the important role that an engaging conference environment has in encouraging delegates to become a more active attendee and this was the top consideration delegates search for when attending a conference (37%). While, almost half of those surveyed said activities involving networking and socialising would make them a more active participant when attending a conference.

However, even though socialising and networking activities are making delegates a more active participant at business events, delegates aren’t seeing the potential professional benefits to these parts of conferencing itineraries. 

The research found the top three least professionally beneficial parts of a business event, are: 

  1. Breakout sessions (26%)
  2. Networking sessions (22%)
  3. Socialising lunches (21%)

With networking sessions and socialising lunches coming out in the top three, the data shows that event organisers should carefully consider the balance of their upcoming itineraries to ensure delegates realise the full potential of these types of sessions. 

The survey data also suggested that, in a world where life is fast-paced, delegates would prefer the latest insights from experts in a short and concise presentation. Seeing a well-known industry expert (39%), short, time-focused presentations (33%) and an ‘ask the expert’ session (31%) would keep delegates the most engaged at a conference. 

Event organisers can also keep delegates engaged by avoiding these session types. 

  1. CSR activities (95%) including charity fundraising, team building activities and pledging
  2. Live polling (94%) as part of an interactive conference presentations
  3. Speed networking (92%) with short, allocated time to spend time with other conference delegates
  4. Debates (90%) where speakers pose an argument for an open delegate and panel discussion
  5. Live event illustration (89%) to visually represent the outcomes of the key discussion of the conference

Commenting on its research, Claire Heap, head of Conference Leeds, said: “As one of the leading conferencing and business event destinations in the UK, Leeds hosts a multitude of successful events from a wide variety of sectors on an annual basis. 

“Many business event organisers will understand the importance of finding the right balance of expert insights, ideas sessions, exhibition browsing and networking. Our recent research has suggested that even though delegates may not realise the professional benefit from networking or socialising, such as new contacts, client leads or product information, it’s still an integral part of the delegate experience.”

To find out more about Conference Leeds’ recent research, visit: 

Data references:

  1. UKCAMS UK 2023 results
  2. UKCAMS Leeds 2023 results
  3. Conference Leeds survey conducted by TFL, data correct as of April 2024


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