6 Ways to Engage Tech-Savvy Millennials at Events

How to grab––and hold––the attention of smartphone-wielding young adults

We all know that millennials are attached to their smartphones, but the extent to which that’s true might surprise you. According to the Smartphone and IoT Consumer Trends 2017 study, nearly half of millennials check their phone more than 50 times a day. And the generation trailing them isn’t any less tech-obsessed: 96 percent of Gen Z youngsters (the oldest of which are just about to enter the workforce) own a smartphone

For event managers, this tech addiction among young adults makes it increasingly difficult to “wow” attendees who have already experienced much of the world through a 4-inch brick. That is, unless you understand what makes them tick––and turn their attention away from the screen.  

1. Offer a podium to stand on 

Millennials aren’t sheep following the crowds; they want to voice their opinions, so make sure there’s a platform that allows for this. Live polling tools like Poll Everywhere gather feedback and immediately address areas of interest. You can also set up a graffiti wall asking attendees to express their views on more elaborate topics. 

2. Think outside the box  

Forgo the traditional preplanned approach to conferences (and get inspired by the likes of South by Southwest) by offering attendees a combination of work, play and a bit of chaos. Allow guests to get creative at live F&B stations or promote experiential learning. For example, consider organizing games where attendees need to develop innovative solution prototypes to a business problem, or provide them with a first look at new technology.

Additionally, try integrating an “Escape Room” concept into your meeting by encouraging attendees to solve puzzles as a team that allow them to break free from the confines of a locked room. 

3. Give them something to stand for 

Many millennials strive to be a part of something revolutionary and meaningful, and they feel that their knowledge, ideas and experiences can change the world for better. Event ideas that align with popular causes include going paperless, serving local and sustainable food, using recycled event décor and holding yoga sessions between meetings. 

4. Blur the line between business and leisure 

Business travelers no longer see work as a formal engagement behind closed doors. The embrace of bleisure travel uses business trips as an opportunity to experience a new destination and culture. Bring some of the local flavor indoors by redesigning the setup, bringing the outdoors in or integrating through the food and beverage offerings. Let go of the formal suits and have a relaxed dress code one day, and prepare organized activities around the city for those who would like to extend their stay. 

5. Give attendees something to tweet about 

Build FOMO (and get guests Instagramming) by organizing a treasure hunt around the meeting. Not only does this encourage interaction, but the activity also allows guests to engage in all aspects of your meeting. Set up a selfie stand to capture authentic moments in Boomerangs or GIFs, and create a contest for the most creative photo and caption shared. Don’t have a large budget? Do something unexpected like a “flash mob” performance from preselected attendees and staff. A good swag item can go a long way, so make sure to stay up to date on the latest trends, including LuMee light-up phone cases, solar chargers and eco-friendly collapsible water bottles. 

6. Make them feel comfortable

As a recent post from Successful Meetings emphasized, millennials won’t just feel uncomfortable when forced to sit in straight-back chairs, long conference tables or in theater-style seating––they’ll probably start to feel disengaged, too. 

Instead of setting up your conference like a traditional event space, consider going for lounge styles that encourage attendees to sit informally. Also expect that many millennials will flock to the sides of the room (where the nearest outlets are to charge their devices), so incorporate extension cords to move attendees toward the center of the room.  

How do you engage with millennials? Use #MeetingsImagined to share your own experiences and ideas. Explore more tips and trends from event experts to stay a step ahead of your attendees’ expectations.