Conferences and events are no longer a one-size-fits-all. As planners we must deliver an engaging experience that crosses multiple generations, and no generation has been more mystifying than the millennial one.
Many articles have been written about the millennial generation, or Gen Y. In an article published by the Pew Research Center, millennials are described as racially diverse, economically stressed and politically liberal. Millennials are building their own networks through social media rather than through political parties, organized religion or marriage. Half now call themselves political independents, the highest share of any generation.
As meeting and event planners we have quickly learned that to be successful we must make a concerted effort to design our programs and events to not only engage one generation, we must engage all generations. And although the millennial generation may seem a bit hard to understand, what they are looking for isn’t much different than what everyone else wants from our conferences or events, the difference lies in the delivery.
Networking opportunities and conversations are important
For most non-millennials networking is a breeze, we easily go from one conversation to the next, sharing business cards and pitching our products and services. Millennials however are more comfortable connecting digitally. They do want genuine conversations and meaningful engagement, which is in contrast to being a more introverted group. As planners we must provide the tools to bridge the generational and behavioral gaps in order to provide meaningful experiences for all. Icebreakers at the start of a meeting are a surefire way to accomplish this. Millenials too loathe being lectured to and prefer conversation. Offer ample opportunities to network, roundtable discussions and conversation lounges.
Millennials are used to building networks via social media, its part of their DNA. The same holds true for events. Events that allow them to build a greater community that is long-lasting will be considered excellent. Offering tools such as Eventinterface, allows your attendees to create and engage with the community around a brand, topic, cause, organization or company pre-, during and post-event.
Sponsorship is essential for most conferences and events. But planners beware, you can’t just engage with any sponsor. Millennials will embrace your sponsor companies if they give back to the community in meaningful ways, and if the sponsorship makes sense for the event. Not keeping this in mind may backfire on you. However, bringing in the right sponsor will very likely turn your millennial attendee into a loyal customer of that sponsor. Great schwag never hurt either.
Are you a millennial? Share with us in the comment section below your thoughts on what makes a great conference or event.