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Generational Shift Requires Planners to Shift Event Design

There has always been a “Generation Gap”, but today it is widening and becoming more complex, posing issues both in our professional and social world. In the meetings industry in particular, designing events that will appeal to all attendees is becoming an ongoing challenge, especially as it relates to the youngest delegates.
For the first time in history in the U.S. there are four generations in the workplace:

  • Traditionalists (Born between 1922 and 1945)
  • Baby Boomers: (1946 to 1964)
  • Gen Xers: (1965 to 1977)
  • Gen Ys (Millennials - 1978 or later)

The biggest change all of us are facing is how technology has invaded our daily lives and how it is being used by these 4 different groups. The mobile workforce (Millennials), a relatively small, but influential bunch, are the first generation to embrace mobile technology and social media on a regular basis. An astounding 95% of Millennials are online, so it's safe to say that being connected is a daily necessity. And meeting planners have to account for those habits.

Today’s event planners must shift their thinking to correspond to the generational shift that is occurring so their events meet expectations. Here are a few things to consider that will satisfy both Gen X and Gen Y attendees:

  • Provide Value before they get on-site
    This doesn’t mean an email blast, Twitter hashtag or other Social Media outreach, which is expected. Rather, create a buzz and a call to action before they get to the event. For example, if it’s a large industry event, have delegates submit videos beforehand to showcase a new or innovative product or idea they have that is relevant and worth sharing with the entire audience.
  • Create Interest upon entering the room
    Try a seating style that’s different from what they are accustomed to. Classroom and roundtable seating certainly have their applications, but when an attendee walks into a room with a different or innovative set-up, they immediately become interested. Use all the different style tables and configurations that the venue has.
  • Remind delegates what they Should be Thinking
    Prepare a compelling opening such as a dazzling video. Outline key concepts in a logical sequence to begin the presentation, emphasizing "real world" significance. Consider using “Picture in Picture” applications with a large center screen for content and 2 side screens for conversation topics, quotes or twitter hashtags that you want the attendees to keep front of mind.
  • Tell them what Others are Thinking
    Provide the delegates with “Instant Information Gratification”. Set up an email account and have attendees send their questions, thoughts and opinions to that email address. Have a dedicated graphics operator put the information on the screen. This is similar to Twitterfall or Protected Tweets, but allows you to fully manage content that appears on screen.
  • Manage the growing "Appification" of your meeting or event
    Smart Devices have changed the way people communicate and increasingly, meeting managers are beginning to uncover the ability that apps have to improve attendee efficiency, productivity and engagement. The most important consideration is this: How will the app promote “ROE” (Return on Experience) for each attendee? Don’t lose sight of your meeting objectives and what information can legally be shared, in light of privacy.
Speaker Referenced: 
 Michael Lyons