BORN between 1980 and 2000, ‘millennials’ or Generation Y, are often portrayed as preferring texting to talking and online to real life. However new research shows that millennials value face-to-face networking at meetings and events just as much, if not more, as previous generations.

According to a recently released Skift Report: ‘What millennials want in meetings’, millennials are more inclined to believe that a wide network of professional contacts and continuing industry sector education are more important than advanced degrees or longevity with any one company for professional growth opportunities.

Therefore, meetings and events offer the best possible platform to help them expand their networks, customize their self-education, and personalize their career paths. This is creating a dramatic shift in the meetings and events industry because millennial meeting planners and attendees prefer to learn and network differently than previous age groups.

For many millennials, there is no such thing as ‘before the Internet.’ They expect technology, including fast Wi-Fi, hybrid content, social media conversation, web-based audience participation platforms, comprehensive event apps and other tech to be seamlessly integrated.

Forward-thinking industry leaders are implementing next generation meeting design and event technologies that are more aligned with this younger generations’ preferences.

Modern meeting design integrates education at every turn with more options for pop-up sessions and open-space learning. Pre-function space is the new meeting space because it allows for flexibility and encourages more casual conversations. People in all age groups are questioning the traditional one-way speaker lecture format.

Planners should add audience participation apps to develop live polls and inspire audiences to ask questions.

The traditional cocktail party is being killed off, or at least transformed. Many millennials say they find these events intimidating because it is unnatural to them to walk up to someone and start a conversation without some kind of shared interest beyond the event theme. Meeting apps where attendees can find people with similar interests are becoming popular; as is mentor pairing with those who have already established their networks over the years.

Millennials want interactive networking opportunities during live meetings that can’t be duplicated online, such as interactive workshops and panels with a lot of give-andtake between the audience and speakers. It’s also important to make sure attendees have something to share.

Event technology is no longer regarded as some kind of add-on component attached to a meeting, because technology now underpins every part of the meeting experience.

Even though many millennials are still developing their skill sets, they want to feel like their opinion is respected and they’re helping co-create meeting content and experiences, so setting up a millennial task force for special projects will help make the event more attractive to this group.

It is estimated that by 2021, this generation will represent up to 70 per cent of new convention and meeting attendees; and over the next 10 years more millennials will be entering the workforce and moving into executive roles. A strategic focus shift toward the important and emerging millennial demographic is essential to the future success of meetings and events. Understanding their wants, needs, and expectations in a meeting experience will pay dividends and go a long way toward attracting, engaging, and retaining their loyalty.

Face-to-face meetings drive business, help maintain professional relationships, and promote personal and professional development better than any other medium. While technology may facilitate the way we work, looking someone in the eye, smiling, and shaking hands creates the kind of human connection that cannot be replaced in any way.

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