Study: Federal Employees Skipping Conferences More Often

With nearly three-quarters of federal employees in a recent survey saying they're attending fewer conferences, the details of the trend are becoming clearer. The situation creates new challenges for federal agencies, the contractors that rely on their business, and the associations that often bring them together.

In case the multiple stories Associations Now has run on the issue haven’t underlined the point already, a new report says the decline in federal conference attendance is accelerating.

“Connecting With Government Customers in an Era of Event and Travel Restrictions,” a new white paper by Market Connections and Boscobel Marketing Communications, reports that federal employees are going to fewer events, agencies are running fewer events, and contractors and other stakeholders are feeling the effects.

More details:

The trend: The key number in the study is 72 percent. That’s the share of agency respondents who said that they were attending fewer events in 2013. It’s a dramatic increase from 2012, when just 38 percent of respondents said the same. Federal agencies themselves are hosting fewer events, with 57 percent reporting a decline from the previous year and just a combined 12 percent saying they were holding more events or about the same number. Contractors that take part in the event industry are noticing changes in their conference experience. “We have seen an impact across the board on both the quality and quantity of event attendees,” said immixGroup’s Allan Rubin, who was quoted in the white paper. “Events and tradeshows have long been core components of our federal marketing programs. There’s no question that event variety, attendance, audience engagement, and marketing ROI have been impacted by the government’s recent decisions.”

The effects: The report suggests that innovation could falter without conferences—particularly within the federal government (68 percent of federal government respondents and 61 percent of contractors believe that to be the case). And contractors will feel some additional marketing pressure: 77 percent of federal employees and 91 percent of contractors surveyed said contractors will have to become more creative with their marketing efforts to educate the government customer without the help of conferences.

The alternatives: If you guessed that the federal government is using webinars to fill the education gap, you’re right: 55 percent of federal employee respondents said they were turning to webinars for information and training in light of restrictions on travel and conferences attendance. Other alternatives included reading industry publications (52 percent) and reviewing websites (48 percent). But webinars don’t generate much enthusiasm: The report notes that a November 2012 survey found that just 18 percent of respondents preferred them. It concludes that “budget and travel restrictions may now ‘force’ a de facto increase in webinar participation.”

More details on the study are available on the Market Connections website.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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