OmniPresence: Millennials & Conference Content
The association industry, and many other businesses as well, look into the future and contemplate what the workforce will look like in the future. Millennials (who are currently 18-33 years old) will coming up to fill the holes left by retiring baby boomers and people like you will be targeting them to join associations as part of their professional development.
There is clearly a shift taking place and it’s worth spending some time to think about how it will impact your membership, your association’s staff, and your industry as a whole. Just remember that, as a general rule, people have more in common than you might think.
Millennials aren’t some unknown creatures with patterns and habits completely foreign to us; they are just people. They were born a little later than some of us and may seem to come with a smartphone glued to their hands, but millennials are people nonetheless.
Two recent articles from Associations Now speak to this idea. Just last week, millennial writer Rob Stott suggested that if the differences millennials bring to a workplace aren’t wholly unfounded myths, they are, at the very least, overblown. The study Stott refers to in the article shows little difference among the three generations represented in the workplace: millennials, Generation X, and baby boomers.
Several factors measured, including preferences on working independently and collaboratively, connecting through social media, and meetings. Millennials preferred to work independently (86%), but less so than Generation X and baby boomers (91% each). Younger professionals want more formal meetings (54%), compared to the other groups surveyed (Generation X: 34%, baby boomers: 27%). Only 30% of millennials preferred to connect through social media, compared to nearly half (48%) of baby boomers.
Another article, by Samantha Whitehorne, refers to a study about millennials’ views of meetings. Young professionals value face-to-face interactions, the study concludes. They want to attend conferences and network with colleagues through an association.
They are also looking for clear direction—spell out what you want them to do, whether that’s to send out a Tweet using your event’s hashtag or become more active in your association. They are more likely to follow through if you tell them exactly what you want. One suggestion Whitehorne brings is to create an event track with programming geared towards young professionals and others who are new to the industry. Show them how to get the most out of your event and they will.
So what does all of this have to do with your event content? The takeaway I’ve found from this research is simple yet important: Check your expectations about millennials at the door. You may feel that you understand what they want, but they are likely to surprise you. What’s more, no two people are alike, and considering millennials as one large group that will react to everything the same as the rest of the peer group is unfair.
Talk to the young professionals in your organization and learn what they really think. Do they appreciate a solid mobile app at a professional conference? Do they want printed programs, too? How about online access to event content? Do they find it easier to learn online or in print?
When it comes to millennials, or any other group of individuals that make up your membership, it’s better to ask than to assume. What did you learn? Leave a comment below!