Capturing the attention of millennials and the Gen Z crowd (also known as iGen) has been the holy grail of goals for meeting and event planners in recent years. Old-school methods and formats aren’t effective anymore. This new generation of attendees demands innovation and interactivity and expects social media shareability.
At the Center for Generational Kinetics, which specializes in generational research and solutions, an in-house team of experts, keynote speakers, and consultants work with clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups across industries such as automotive, banking, financial services, restaurants, hoteliers, and retail, to figure out what works and what doesn’t. (Hint: PowerPoint, no. Video, yes.)
The center deems those born between 1977 and 1995 as millennials. The center’s president, Jason Dorsey, who, at 40, rides the cusp of this generation, has spoken in front of many millennial-packed audiences at events, meetings, and conferences, including the Financial Brand Forum, GS1 in Mexico, Ultimate Connections Conference, and EO Nashville. Here, he shares his insights into planning a meeting or event that successfully taps into the mindset of this group.
What are the key elements that millennials look for in events?
Millennials want to be included in all aspects of the event. This means not having to sit in the back of the room because they have more junior titles or fewer years of experience. Millennials also want digital integration, fewer PowerPoint slides, more video, and more all-around interactivity. We have come of age in a time of instant feedback and collaboration, and we want our in-person events to include more of this before, during, and after.
What’s the main difference between reaching a Gen Z audience as compared to millennials?
Gen Z are younger than millennials, in some cases 15 years younger, so they are on the very front end of their careers. [Right now, Gen Z is up to age 22.] We find they value training on how to make the most of events, how to use technology to connect with people and resources at events, and interaction that drives new connections-as they likely know fewer people at the event than other generations. Gen Z also looks to other social media platforms, such as Snapchat rather than Facebook, which changes the type of digital interactions they want to create while at an event.
What’s the best way for planners to reach millennials at conferences and meetings in particular?
In our work with planners around the world, the best way to reach millennials is to create the foundation for a great event before the event happens. This includes videos, behind-the-scenes collaborations, and building up the excitement for the event before it takes place. Our work with meeting planners who have events with lots of millennials also reveals that millennials want the event to be tailored to them, when possible, and to give them options to find content and tracks that meet their specific needs including career and life stage. Millennials want speakers that are high energy, engaging, and who pull into the message and meeting, rather than traditional PowerPoint-heavy presentations with someone behind a podium.
Lastly, continuing the conversation after the event is key so that all the great content doesn’t just disappear, but drives engagement, enthusiasm, and action when everyone returns to work. We frequently work with meeting planners to film videos and create other content that is specifically designed to be delivered before and after the event, including live conversations post-event.
What types of speakers are most effective at engaging millennials?
Millennials get fired up about my take on our generation because I explain how millennials are actually two generations [early and late millennials], not one. This is a big deal and why many of us feel like we don’t fit in the generation. Other speakers I’ve seen that resonate with millennial audiences include Jay Baer, Rory Vaden, Erik Qualman, and David Horsager. All of them are very entertaining presenters with lots of great stories and humor, which is important as millennials have very high expectations for entertainment when it comes to speakers.
Is there anything that’s a major turn-off for millennials in terms of events?
Yes, boring speakers with lots of slides, being treated as if they are not as valued an audience member as those with bigger titles, not having diverse food options, and events that are in hotels where they charge for Wi-Fi.
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