How to Engage the Next Generation of Eventgoers
Play up these four meeting elements to attract younger attendees
While planning an upcoming project this week, I couldn’t help but think of how meeting planning has changed over the years. Events, of course, have always been for and about people: bringing them together and offering a unique shared experience. But just how we do that has changed drastically. The constantly changing digital world means that some of the techniques and activities we planners have relied on for the past few years might no longer captivate our audiences, particularly those who belong to the millennial or Generation Z groups.
As the meeting industry continues to evolve—and society with it—here’s how you can pivot your events to keep them as engaging as they’ve always been.
Amp Up the Experience
Millennials and Gen Zers don’t want to watch, they want to do. That means we planners have to create an experience that gets guests up and out of their chairs and entrenched in the event.
I know many of you are already feeling the industry shift to this trend: About 80 percent of planners say that their job entails more “experience creation” than ever before. But it’s important to remember that each project demands a fresh experience—if younger attendees have been to a similar event, they’ll have no incentive to go to your meeting unless they’re offered something new.
So, where to start when developing an out-of-this-world-never-done-before meeting experience? First, think about your meeting purpose and how you might traditionally work to achieve your goals. Then flip that idea on its head. What can you do to make your event interactive? More decorative? With more exciting food? Flesh out a few over-the-top ideas, then bring them down to reality, where important things (like the financials) live. This out-of-the-box thinking technique will allow you to see your event from a fresh perspective—and hopefully come up with a truly individual event concept that only you could think up.
Play Up Social Media
You’ve heard the statistics: Younger generations are glued to their phones. In fact, 61.8 percent of millennials and Gen Zers say they’d rather leave their wallets at home than their phones. The reasoning behind that might vary person to person, of course, but I think it’s fair to say that social media is partly to blame.
More than a marketing tool, social media is an engaging way to interact with attendees before, during and after your event. Get people talking by making an event hashtag that allows attendees to track what’s happening at your meeting and when, as well as interact with other attendees, share insights, contribute to panels and speakers, and more. It also serves as a direct line from guests to you, the planner, and allows you to see in real time how guests are experiencing your meeting—and make any adjustments as needed. If you’re concerned about tech burnout, proactively stave it off by incorporating tech-free zones or adding activity to your event.
Make It Share-Worthy
In the age of social media, millennials and Gen Zers want to be wowed in person—and then share their experience online to wow those who can’t be there. So, take a look at your setup and ask yourself, “Would I share this on social media?” If the answer is no, it might be time to kick up your décor a notch or two. Over-the-top, elaborate spreads that match your meeting theme might seem extravagant, but they guarantee someone will take a picture, and therefore get the word out about your event.
Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
Whenever I talk about events today, customization is the one thing that pops up no matter the context. Millennials and Gen Zers have grown up with the world at their fingertips—that is, the internet and other tech advances have given them the control to be selective with the type of information and entertainment they choose to pay attention to. The key word here is “choose”: Younger generations can opt in to anything that piques their interest, but they also opt out when it doesn’t.
For planners, this means a younger attendee will disengage from a meeting that doesn’t relate to him or her directly. Whether it’s allowing guests to create their own event schedule, make DIY gift bags or choose seating, letting attendees personalize their meeting experience ensures that guests can relate to and enjoy your meeting.
Millennials and Gen Z might make event planning more challenging—but think about the great event experiences you’ll get to create in the process. They might not look like anything you’ve done before, but that’s exactly the point.