Millennials—people between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2015—are unlike any other generation before them. One distinction that truly sets them apart from Generation X (ages 35–50) and baby boomers (ages 51–69) is how they think about technology. Millennials are the first generation of digital natives. They grew up with the Internet, social media, smartphones and texting. Technology is integral to their everyday lives, and they are extremely reliant on and comfortable with it.
For meeting planners, this is a reality that events must reflect. With millennials—all 83.1 million of them, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—poised to become the most populous generation in the country, it is imperative that events be designed to capture and engage this demographic, which is expected to comprise 75 percent of the world’s workforce by 2025. Understanding how to leverage technology will be essential in achieving this goal.
Meet the Millennial Meeting Attendee
Research in the Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business found that millennials are kinesthetic, active and hands-on learners who prefer to experience the world through multimedia. Static presentations and long, one-sided lectures are not for them. They learn best when information is presented in a dynamic, visual format, and prefer interactive presentations that give them an opportunity to provide feedback in real time via texts, social media or other online tools.
In a meeting, conference or trade show environment, millennials expect their propensity toward technology and multimedia applications to be accommodated. Having fast, reliable and secure Wi-Fi connections is essential. Also, having touch-screen registration and interactive videos providing event schedules, speaker and exhibit information, as well as travelogues highlighting local restaurants and attractions, demonstrates that what is important to millennials also matters to meeting planners.
Use Technology to Make Your Meetings Millennial Friendly
Given the wide range of interactive technologies now available to meeting planners, creating a millennial-friendly event is easier than ever—you just need to know how to apply leading-edge technology for all aspects of the event.
Registration & Check-In Software
Sophisticated registration software solutions speak directly to millennials’ digital habits. This enables planners to produce and print coded badges, which can be used for lead retrieval and attendee tracking, and gives planners a way to collect attendees’ information and apply it to reports that help them optimize the event, as well as future events.
Use digital signage in dynamic ways to create a wow factor and engage millennials. Convey content in text, images and video across monitors, strategically placed where attendees can access program agendas, exhibit locations, sponsor messages, news tickers and weather information. Digital messages can be customized for optimum target marketing and modified on the fly to drive attendance to session or networking events.
As millennials might say, charging stations can “save your life.” Who hasn’t worried about having to charge their devices at trade shows or conferences? Onsite charging kiosks offer attendees a convenient way to juice up, stay connected and download apps and information—exactly what millennials want. They also give planners and exhibitors a captive audience for more multimedia screens. Marketing content can be displayed across the top portion of the stations, broadcasting event info, branding messages, sales presentations and even interactive apps.
Audience Response Systems
Audience response systems give millennials another way to share their voices in real time. They’re perfect for audience polling about the event, exhibits attendees are enjoying, the winner of a prize drawing at a sponsor’s booth, reactions to speakers and more. They promote a highly interactive event while helping planners stay abreast of attendees’ opinions regarding various aspects of it. Exhibitors can use audience response systems to gain better insight into how their display, sales presentations and promotions are being received—valuable on-the-spot information to have if they want to make any adjustments.
Digital Document Libraries
Digital document libraries are ideal for meeting planners who want the ability to deliver information in an engaging, interactive way, as well as manage content and securely capture real-time data. They also appeal to millennials’ green sensibilities in that the libraries are an environmentally conscious alternative to printed materials—which Repurpose America estimates generate approximately 600,000 tons of waste annually.
Jeffrey C. Byrne is vice president of sales for SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals (smartsourcerentals.com), a company that provides tech solutions for the meetings and events industry.