DALLAS, TX — As the Delta variant causes uncertainty around returning to normal activities, new research and predictive modeling shows that attending large in-person business events such as industry tradeshows are safer than many daily activities like going to the grocery store. The research also suggested that hosting events does not increase local COVID-19 case rates.

The findings are the result of a research partnership between Freeman, a global leader in events, and Epistemix, a computational modeling software company that develops simulations to fight disease and inform public health policy. The data, which is the result of tracking more than 3 million responses, was presented in an Inside LIVE webinar, a recording of which is available to watch here.


In fact, for recent August events, the infection rates were as much as 95% lower than the US at large. Modeling found risks of infection at events to be as much as eight times lower than the metro area where they were being held. This includes events such as Chicago-based Lollapalooza, a music festival with 385,000 attendees with an infection rate of.05% due to on-site testing and other precautions.

Key factors of COVID transmission at large gatherings include attendee vaccination rates, the controllable nature of events and a correlation between the eagerness of participants to return to events with willingness to adopt additional health and safety protocols.

According to Freeman’s research, vaccination rates are higher than 80% in most categories of attendees and exhibitors, which is about 20% higher than the average vaccination rate for all US adults.

“Based on the data we’ve seen, attending an in-person event is no riskier — in fact, less risky — than essential daily activities,” said Bob Priest-Heck, CEO of Freeman. “Businesses and organizations want to get back to events for critical commerce, networking and exchange of ideas. This research provides the framework for doing so safely.”

“Businesses and organizations want to get back to events for critical commerce, networking and exchange of ideas. This research provides the framework for doing so safely.” —Bob Priest-Heck | CEO | Freeman


Other key findings include:

  • In-person business event participants are more likely to be vaccinated than the US population, reflecting a vaccination rate above 80% and creating vaccination coverage that drastically cuts transmission of COVID-19 regardless of the gathering size.
  • Despite concerns over the Delta variant, the majority of attendees and exhibitors want to return to in-person events, and more than 90% are not opposed to additional health and safety protocols that enable them to gather safely. Further, those who do not support additional protocols said they instead choose to stay homes.
  • Freeman has been tracking participant sentiment with more than 3 million responses to date. This is the largest industry panel available on attitudes and behaviors related to COVID-19 and in-person business events.


Epistemix’s simulations inform policy of the CDC; WHO; and federal, state and local governments. The company has developed a robust approach that enables it to model the risk of infection and subsequent impact on local hospitals due to in-person business events. The modeling represents more than two dozen cities and key event destinations with back-testing confirming its model forecasts.

“We recognize the current rise in Delta variant cases has led some event organizers and exhibitors to consider cancellations,” said John Cordier, CEO and co-founder of Epistemix. “Our modeling and these data can help show organizers and public health officials replace that uncertainty with confidence to plan safe events.”

The business events industry is a growth engine essential to local economies and businesses that are heavily reliant on the spending brought about by foot traffic and travel. The impact of cancelations is felt by exhibitors that depend on tradeshows and conventions to meet customers and make sales, as well as service providers, whose workers have been out of work for more than 18 months.

Pre-pandemic, in-person events contributed almost $400 billion in direct economic impact (or 1.8%of the US GDP) … more than computer and electronic products manufacturing, auto manufacturing, and the arts, entertainment and recreation industries, just to name a few.