Similar to how the business travel industry has been adapting to an expanding millennial workforce, meetings and events also are being modified to appeal to this generation, now in their twenties and thirties. So today we’ll offer some ideas on how organizers can get millennial attendees excited and engaged at their next event.
Location, location, but a unique location
As American Express Global Business Travel’s Meetings & Events division points out in its 2019 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, millennial attendees aren’t satisfied with a “typical” venue or hotel. Generation Y can be an adventurous bunch stimulated by fresh experiences and so they desire the new and unexpected. Think beyond the traditional auditorium and seek a venue that doesn’t fit the conventional convention center mold. It may be a nightclub the public never gets to see by day, an aquarium without the kiddies around or an airport hangar usually reserved for private jet use. Let your imagination go wild but then pull back and make sure the idea is feasible with these top considerations when staging an event in an alternative space.
The experience matters
We have said it before, but we’ll say it again: Millennials tend to value experiences over the material. So forget investing in swag they may leave behind in the hotel and instead focus on creating an experience that will never leave the mind. Pull out all the stops to deliver the “wow” factor, from the audiovisual and lighting effects down to the smallest details. But we should mention, “bigger and better” is not necessarily the only path there — when creativity is involved, you can manifest an exceptional event, even on a tight budget.
Think outside the three-course meal
A structured, sit-down luncheon can be an unappetizing dining experience for many millennials since it limits their food selections and social interactions.
Food stations featuring a variety of bites will go over well with this crowd more accustomed to all-day grazing than three square meals. Equally appealing is a “build your own” station where they can pick and choose their ingredients and customize their dish.
Gluten-free, keto-friendly, locally sourced, vegan, ethnic fusion — you can’t go wrong with having any of these options either. Earn extra credit if there’s a local story attached to a destination-specific food or nutritional information on display.
Break from the traditional format
It can be difficult for anyone to give their undivided attention during a 60-minute lecture, no matter how engaging the orator is. To avoid eyes from glazing over and being diverted to their phones, trim the time of discussions to 20‑30 minutes and follow it up with a dynamic interactive discussion. Live video streams also work well in captivating this tech-savvy audience.
Because many Gen Y-ers crave flexible schedules without every moment planned out, avoid the temptation to create a jam-packed itinerary with back-to-back seminars. Allow them time to escape the auditorium with other activities, such as a group walking tour where they can get a breath of fresh air and do some sightseeing.
Delivering social media moments
From beautifully presented food to selfie ops with the keynote speaker, the event should have plenty of components that Gen Y-ers deem Instagram-worthy. Make it even easier for them to share content online by displaying on a social media wall the top quotes from the event and providing free access to Wi-Fi service. And don’t forget to create a fun hashtag they can use to promote the event. #Brandingiseverything!
Some millennials may be tempted to check their phones during a workshop lecture. Instead of fighting the idea, create a conference app that steals back some of their attention.
Within the app, you might offer a private platform where they can connect with each other and a searchable directory with bios of all attendees. You also might integrate an augmented reality or gamification element, having them earn points when they check in at certain stations.
And remember: As essential as it is to provide Gen Y with the tech tools they so love using, it’s equally important to make available a few charging stations where they can power up their devices. After all, if a phone dies and there’s no place to bring it back to life, they may as well call it a day and head back to the hotel room.