The data is in and it confirms what most of us suspected: Millennials do have different expectations as meeting attendees, purchasing decision makers, students and communicators. Their expectations drive how they perceive an event and whether or not they will attend. First, an event has to be in a progressive city with culture, entertainment and nightlife. Second, the venue must accommodate their preferences and expectations, from the registration process to the exhibit hall provisions and educational sessions. Third, they must be able to communicate and connect easily and without restrictions. Having a successful meeting that attracts, engages and gains positive feedback from Millennials requires performance on all these fronts.
Millennials continue to be the subject of countless research studies attempting to better understand what is now the largest living generation, surpassing Baby Boomers. The last U.S. Census Bureau reported that there are 7.3 million Millennials, those individuals born between 1980 and the early 2000s. At a recent “State of the Industry” program attended by national tourism officials, the discussion centered on how Millennials are looking for memorable events, rich with entertainment and experiences. This finding was supported by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), which found that Millennials want hands-on experiences at trade-show booths. According to CEIR, 80 percent of its survey respondents want to interact with products, and value learning and engaging with an exhibitor’s brand story and vision.
An IBM study on the business-to-business buying habits of Millennials vs. Generation X and/or Baby Boomers found that Millennials have distinct traits relating to how they approach a buying decision. The top criteria for Millennials when choosing a vendor is
a company that is easy to work with. As for buying influences, while both Gen X and Baby Boomers rely on their personal experiences and impressions of a product or service, Millennials look to data analysis as well as recommendations from others outside their organization. Another important take-away from the IBM study: Millennials are more inclined to share their positive experiences about a product, service, or activity and less likely to pass on negative experiences than the other two generations. They also are very likely to use social media to magnify and multiply the impact of their feelings. This information comes from the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Study.
That last finding is something that can be especially powerful for convention, trade show, conference and meeting planners who want to maximize the buzz about their events in order to capture sponsors, exhibitors and attendees for future events.
So, how does technology factor into all of this research? It starts with recognizing that Millennials are more tech-dependent and more tech-savvy than any generation before them. They grew up in the digital age and for them, their mobile devices are as natural and essential as the clothes on their back. They have been dubbed the first “digital natives.” To capture and engage Millennials at an event, technology must be an integral component. Knowing how to integrate different meeting technologies is a need-to-know strategy for every event planner.
Meeting Technology To Engage Millennials
To set the stage for how technology should be leveraged, here are some basic findings as to the likes and dislikes of Millennials attending various events:
• They do like using their mobile devices while attending an event.
• They do like information offered to them in a multimedia format and value a hands-on learning experience.
• They do like sharing their event experiences with others in real time through texts, and using social-media outlets.
• They do not like losing a signal because of weak Wi-Fi.
• They do not like static educational presentations.
• They do not like seeing or receiving printed literature. As a group, they are more environmentally conscious and prefer receiving information electronically.