My Millennial colleague keeps showing up to work wearing ripped jeans. Not something I, or most other Gen-Xers, would make as a work-attire choice first thing in the morning, and it makes me deliberate on how differently the generations approach life in general.
If you are building an attendee experience and you are stuck on how to keep those bare-kneed Millennials engaged, here are three things you need to know;
1. Millennials have an uncanny need to be connected
Any parent in charge of data bills in a household with teenagers can validate this. Millennials would rather give up driving a car than having their smartphones, according to a survey commissioned by Zipcar. So while most of us Gen-Xers bend over backward to not connect too much and maintain our privacy online – the Millennials are the opposite – and take their online connections very seriously!
During the course of an event, having adequate wifi, an event app, a method to follow people, upload pictures, download documents, comment, like, flag and a bevy of other digital connection features – are all required to keep Millennials communicating in the manner to which they are accustomed. The reality is that social media has dictated the types of features present in event apps, and they become the standard for mass digital communications.
2. Millennials are downright impatient
There, I said it. Probably one of the most cantankerous and undoubtedly one of the most unpopular comments I’ve written all week… but it is so!
Before I dig the hole too deep, I have to take a step back and look at the world we have created. Everything is instant and disposable, and the younger generation has never known anything else. I remember when I wanted to pay my bills way back when (this would not be a good Gen X post without a “When I was your age…” story) – I had to go to the bank, driving into town on Saturday mornings (the only time the bank was open and I wasn’t in school), stand in a long line-up (just to pay bills!) and then watch a very slow moving teller as they blamed the delay on the new computers (as they puffed on –no joking here –a cigarette). Nowadays, I can open up my banking app with my fingerprint, and pay my bills sitting on my sofa in the middle of the night. I don’t miss the old uncomplicated years. It’s like dial-up modems… you can’t go back to that!
So without ever having to wait, or make an effort to perform a mundane task, leaves Millennials with higher expectations of their time. Now try catering an entire event program to a roomful of them! That is why engagement tactics, such as gamification, live polling, social media integrations and Q&A sessions, are so important. Not many Millennials want to listen to a talking head for several hours at a time all day long. Younger audiences need that engagement in order to continue to listen and learn from your speakers.
Studies have shown that the more digital the lifestyle, the more of a struggle it is to keep focus in situations where prolonged attention is required. Without engagement tactics, event planners are simply providing face-to-face networking opportunities and missing the opportunity to provide impactful session content.
3. What Millennials lack in experience, they make up for in vibrancy
Ever notice how the job market is made up of “start-ups” – to the point where some companies, who have existed for over a decade, are calling themselves a start-up! This can be explained by the romantic notion of the entrepreneur who broke the mold, did something different and did it his/her way. And this is the embodiment of the Millennial today – a young, sexy, smart maverick who is not afraid to forge his/her own path.
To the event planner who wishes to cater to engaging Millennials, I suggest you approach your event as a cultivation of a common passion, allowing them to take part in the event as if it were their own. Lessen the restrictions that prevent Millennials from expressing themselves in the way they see fit and most importantly, help them set their individual goals and play to their own strengths.
So there you have it, a Gen Xer’s guide to engaging Millennials! As my colleague put it: “Ultimately, engaging Millennials is all about creating an interactive, memorable experience.” Whether you are dealing with FOMO, YOLO or ROFL, knowing the manners of personal expression permits you to create something impactful.
As I write this post, knowing full well that Baby Boomers had similar conversations about my generation, I wonder if my Millennial colleague knows that ripped jeans started in the 90’s and we called them “distressed”. What goes around comes around, I guess.