New Freeman Research Shows an Accelerated Return to In-Person Events


Freeman, a global event planning firm, releases new research this week showing the majority of attendees and exhibitors in the U.S. plan to return to face-to-face events by the fall of 2021. According to the study, 78 percent of attendees expect to attend in-person events in fall 2021, increasing to 94 percent by winter. Exhibitors are slightly more optimistic with 80 percent returning this fall, 95 percent will do so by winter.

Further, 85 percent of respondents say in-person events are irreplaceable because of their ability to drive commerce and networking that creates partnerships and innovation.

“The events industry was one of the hardest hit during COVID-19,” said Bob Priest-Heck, CEO of Freeman. “This research shows a light at the end of the tunnel with confidence in returning to in-person events up from an all-time low last spring. When events return, commerce returns — by not only providing a platform for small business and larger corporations, but also benefiting the travel, hospitality, and tourism industries as well.”

Other findings of the research include:

  • Vaccination propels confidence and interest in returning to large in-person events with 86 percent more confident in doing so once vaccinated. Interestingly, trade show attendees, suppliers and exhibitors report being more willing to immediately receive the vaccine than the average person in the U.S.
  • Manufacturing will return to in-person first followed by technology, retail and finally healthcare.
  • The overall Confidence Index in returning to in-person events now is at 75 percent, up from an all-time low last spring in the 40s.
  • Sixty-eight percent of attendees and 71 percent of exhibitors expect to have no corporate travel restrictions by Q3 2021.

Using its own research data as well as numerous sources from local governments, travel industry, hospitality, meetings and public health, Freeman has created a proprietary Event Favorability Dashboard to guide its organizer, exhibitor and corporate clients on the timing, location and format for their events.

“While we are encouraged by the accelerated return for in-person events, the right timing for individual events will depend on the industry, the event type and regionality,” said Priest-Heck. “We’ve already seen many events conducted safely with the correct health and safety measures in place. As more shows do so, we anticipate that this will support the easing of regulations for business events and allow for the return of face-to-face meetings more quickly.”

Freeman will share highlights of the study and take questions on March 4 at 1 pm CST. Attendance is limited and by invitation only. To request an invitation, contact

About the Research
Conducted by Freeman’s Data Intelligence team — with more than 50 years of industry research experience — the research is based on data from more than 1 million U.S. event attendees, exhibitors, organizers and brand marketers and includes 20 percent international attendees making it the most comprehensive offering of its kind in the industry. With a +/-1.2 percent margin of error, the full report is also segmented into detailed findings for the technology, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and business services industries with insights on other industry sectors also available.

For more information and to purchase the research study, visit

For 20+ years, the MEET family of products have provided regional and national resources that have kept corporate, association, medical, education, independent, and religious meeting and event planners informed about relevant vendors, industry news, tech innovations, and resources that impact and influence how and where they plan their group business.

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