Recently, I was recommended to read Dan Schwabel’s white paper for the American Program Bureau on millennials, the new audience segment.
The millennials are the most educated, diverse and connected generation of our time, accounting for 80 million in the USA alone. By gradually becoming the most populous part of an audience, they radically shape what conferences look like.
With more millennials in the audience, event organizers need to learn what this generation wants and expects in order to deliver successful conferences.
Therefore, I decided to distill Dan’s most important findings and present 5 things that the millennials expect from great conferences.
1. Distinct Experiences
Millennials crave for genuine experiences at events. Therefore, meeting planners should become experience architects that deliver a strong emotional message to their participants. The best example is the hyper-successful Belgium music festival Tomorrowland that offers a powerful experience for all of their 200.000 festival-goers by supreme storytelling.
2. Live Polling
According to Dan, 73% of millennials are interested in being part of live polls during event sessions. They want to be an active part of the presentations – express their opinion, interact with speakers. They don’t want to be mere observers. By engaging millennial delegates with live polling during the presentations, presenters create a strong group experience that leaves the audience feeling like they all have been part of the event story.
3. Active Participation
Instead of passively listening to a speaker for an hour, millennials rather spend the majority of the presentation time for Q&A. This is the generation that wants to engage in the conversation. Dan notes that “it’s time to change the traditional speaker and panel formats to incorporate technology and audience participation.”
Talk to your speakers and encourage them to leave enough room for the Q&A in the allocated time slot. If you plan to use Q&A tools, submit questions in advance to avoid silence and kick-off the conversation.
4. Networking opportunities
Schwabel states that 86% of the millennials want career networking and job opportunities from events! This makes perfect sense knowing that millennials are largely underemployed. By organising networking sessions that forces millennials to meet companies, you bring a great value to millennials, which directly reflects in the success of your event.
5. Social media integration
Millennials view experiences at live events as a valuable content to be shared with their online friends. Event professionals shall seize this trend and aim at creating tweetable moments that millennials might spread to their extended online communities.
Create the event hashtag and promote it so the millennials can live-tweet and spread the word about your event to the non-onsite attendees. Set up the tweet walls onsite and incentify participation by offering small rewards.
Cover Photo: CC2.0, Gleb Leonov / Strelka Institute, Flickr