Millennials: We employ them. We manage them. And in the live events industry, we now have the growing challenge to engage them. As we embark on a new decade, we see boomers exiting the workplace and millennials taking over. According to Brookings Data, by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be made up of millennials. That is significant. And it completely shifts the way we need to think about and plan for conferences and events.
It might be the nature of our corporate business, or it could my specific portfolio, but I am a master of planning for the corporate, Midwestern boomer attendee. On their most wanted list? Comfortable seating, cooler room temperatures, ability to charge devices, hearty food buffets, whiskey in the evening event bar and lots of directional arrows along their pathway because they won’t read the signs anyways. It’s a no-brainer. But my years of experience and master template are about to be turned upside down.
Millennials? That’s a different conundrum. Unpredictable. Opinionated. Technology-driven. Moving at the speed of light. Note to self: Keep the directional arrows along the pathway, still applicable, but add illuminated wands to grab their attention.
So, how exactly do we plan for this audience? As a self-proclaimed non-millennial millennial, I have some tips.
Destination Matters. Just ask my millennial sister. She came home this Christmas and declared she’s going on a monthlong trip to London; Athens, Greece; and Cairo, Egypt. The more exotic the location, the better. Now, I can already hear you, Miss Meeting Planner: The destination is hard to get to, it’s way too expensive, it’s not conducive for our culture or content. I hear you; I really do. But guess what? If it’s not Instagrammable or lit, the millennials will clap back and give you a hard pass (they won’t come).
Woke Content. If you ask a millennial about their 401K or home insurance plan, they may not have one. Millennials are missing the fundamentals of adulting in more ways than one. Unless I missed it, they didn’t teach Retirement: 101 in college or Negotiating With a Contractor When Your Roof Starts Leaking and Collapses 200 (True Story: Sydney Wolf’s Life, 2019). Have you ever thought about integrating some real-life content into your meeting for your audience? Throw in a session or two with some practical application and I guarantee your millennial audience will appreciate it.
Make It Purposeful. The bottom line is that millennials care about a cause, so make your event purposeful. Meaningful speakers, opportunities to engage in roundtables, and areas at the event to give back and shine a light on social responsibility. Millennials want to change the world, so let them. Oh, and you’ll get major points if you include a puppy petting or adopt-a-dog station.
Human Interaction. Millennials don’t always have a face-to-face conversation. They use the self-checkout line instead of the cashiers. They stare at their phones all day, every day. If you build in networking time at your event for a group of millennials, you better have some music to fill the dead air and a bank of charging stations available. So, what do you do? How about hiring an interactive speaker or comedian host for the networking hour that will teach them what to do?
Millennial Moms. Remember my whole templated solution for a conference of 40-60-something boomers? Yeah, I promise a mother’s room was NOT part of that equation. More than 1.2 million millennial women gave birth for the first time in 2016— and that number will only continue to rise. The stigma that millennials don’t want commitment, a house, kids – but only a dog? It’s true, it exists. But don’t forget about the mamas. In a millennial audience, you are going to have a lot of new moms to cater to, so make the conference accessible and inviting to their needs.
Food and Beverage. Two words: caption worthy. Millennials want everything they do to be “for the ‘gram.’” Flaming drink? Interactive carving station with a costumed character? Latte with their face on it? Now we’re talking. Invest in unique food and beverage presentation to help your millennial audience rack up their likes while you rack up positive ratings on your conference survey.
Music. Whether it’s “audio wallpaper” to simply fill the space or a front-and-center spectacle performance, don’t underestimate how soundwaves can change the tide of your event. My advice? Focus less on whether you spend the money on a band or DJ and focus more on variety, tone and intention to understand what role you want the music to play and how you’ll achieve this. Your millennial audience is going to be looking for top hits, quick beats, and fast-paced changes to ebb and flow with the mood of the crowd. Pro tip: Whitney Houston’s “I Want To Dance With Somebody” is always a sure hit.