The MPI World Education Congress this month had dozens of captivating presentations, and one that stood out involved three young meeting professionals who participated in a panel about the generation gap in the meetings industry.
One of the panelists in the presentation, titled “Generation Next: Bridging the Generation Gap in the Workplace and at Meetings,” was Joe Martin, partner and conference director for BDI Events, a full-service events company based in Los Angeles. Martin has more than nine years professional experience in special-event planning and implementation for non-profits and the entertainment industry, and has served as a meeting planner for conferences ranging from 50–1,200 people.
Martin’s energy and enthusiasm buoyed much of the discussion, and his comments broadened the audience’s understanding of Gen Y meetings professionals such as himself. “When baby boomers arrive at their destination, they get on the phone and say, ‘Hi. I’m here.’ When we land, we send a text,” he said.
But when asked about the biggest misconceptions about Gen Y professionals, he focused on the commonly held belief that they are all glued to their electronic tools, such as apps. “Actually, I like printed programs. I also like face-to-face meetings; when we meet, we change the world,” Martin said.
He says Gen Y professionals are best accommodated at meetings that offer different types of programming, such as CSR options and action events. He feels that the meetings industry offers great opportunities for growth, and that Gen Y needs to have these opportunities. “If Gen Y professionals don’t have them, they’ll look to work somewhere else,” he said.
Many of his comments emphasized the importance of engagement. “We want to build relationships with people; it empowers us and makes us feel connected,” Martin says, adding that older professionals can help to bridge the gap with Gen Y staff by meeting them in atypical ways, such as by taking a hike or having breakfast.
When asked about Gen Y’s desire to move up the ladder quickly, he said, “It’s hard when we can’t, but we need to keep being pushed. We need to be told something like, “You’re not ready for this, but let’s work toward it.”
The panel was moderated by Audra Narikawa, vice president and senior manager at The Capital Group Companies Inc.; Whitney Wilson, meeting and event planner for Eventive Group; and Lane West event specialist for MPI.
For more of Martin’s views about bridging the generation gap, watch a video interview with him, soon to be posted on smartmeetings.com.