Millennial Pain and the Conference Scene

Oct 19, 2015 4:11:16 PM

Burke Gibney


 The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported there are 83.1 million Millennials (those born between 1982 and 2000), representing more than one quarter of the nation’s population. They account for an even larger portion of the labor market. According to Pew Research Center analysis of the census data, more than one third of American workers are now MillennialsThey are the largest generation in American history, and in the first quarter of 2015 they passed Generation X to become the largest generation in today’s workforce.

With that many millennials in the workforce, they are gradually becoming a large part of the audience at conferences, conventions, trade shows, association meetings, and all other business events. To deliver successful events, meeting planners need to know what millennials want and expect at conferences, conventions, etc.

 To help you satisfy this growing segment of your audience, here are the top 3 things the millennial generation desires:


1. Greater Attendee Engagement

Dan Schawbel has studied the Millennial generation in great detail and is widely regarded as an expert on marketing to and engaging with millennials. He reports that “old-school” meeting formats are the number one repellant for millennial attendees. “This is a generation that wants to be heard and have conversations instead of listening to a presentation straight through.” To attract and satisfy millennials, conference and meeting organizers need to change the traditional speaker and panel formats to incorporate significant audience participation.

Increased engagement can take many forms – breakout sessions for peer-to-peer discussion, video conferencing, live-feeds, on-site bloggers, event-specific apps, event hashtags – these are all features millennial attendees want. However you do it, strive to deliver participatory learning experiences to achieve success with millennials.

2. High-Tech Events

It should be no surprise that millennials want to see more technology at events, and some of the suggestions above to increase attendee engagement involve technological tools. Millennials view Wi-Fi as an absolute must-have, but simply having Wi-Fi at the venue won’t cut it. They want to see technology thoroughly integrated into the event. Research by the PCMA Education Foundation found “they want to see internet integrated into their meetings/conventions/events. They also want visual effects in presentations, having Wi-Fi available, incorporating interactive games, and using technology for team building.”

The PCMA research paper is informative, but it was published in May 2012 so it’s already over 3 years old. Millennials have significantly higher technological expectations now. Some ideas to look into – on-demand video feeds, onsite social media networking, event apps with various features, such as in-app scheduling and communication capabilities, on-the-spot surveys and contests, personalized push notifications to share last-minute changes and other announcements. Thanks to smartphone technology, event hosts can now instantly communicate with all attendees in numerous ways while providing a personalized experience to each of them.

3. Edutainment

That PCMA research study we linked to above asked 78 questions of almost 2,000 millennials. The number one highest-rated response was: “I like education with entertainment.” In his article “How Millennials See Meetings Differently,” Dan Schawbel says, “85% of millennials want interesting and fun educational programs. Event organizers should use mobile applications so millennials can explore the event on their cell phones and use gamification to turn traditional exhibits into games that millennials can play.”

Millennials also place a high value on social events. They see socializing as relationship-building to help further their careers. Seek to include unique, fun social activities into your events. The millennials in attendance will appreciate it and will tweet and Instagram their friends and colleagues about it.

We’ve highlighted these 3 things because each complements the others. Millennials want to be engaged and entertained through technology integrated into conferences, conventions, trade shows and other meetings.

Follow our blog to stay updated on important trends in the conference and convention industry. We will soon highlight more ways to get millennials to attend your event and to provide them the engaging experiences they seek so they keep coming back!

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