Voice of an Association Millennial

One of the most common difficulties that association meeting planners face is how to offer educational materials at annual conferences. The educational resources that associations create for membership are the number one resource they have to offer. For years, meeting planners have had to create, edit and produce these materials via print, online or in a mobile app. Now with the emergence of Millennials in the workforce, yet another dilemma faces each and every one of you. How does the largest generation currently in the U.S. workforce (more than one in three American workers are Millennials, per the Pew Research Center) want to consume these valuable resources?

That’s why we conducted some in-depth research to find out just how Millennials prefer to consume educational materials. The results were truly interesting and will probably surprise most readers. A generation that has spent most of their lives in the era of the internet, computers and digital content still holds a very high value for print and, in some important cases, even prefer it. In fact, 50% of respondents reported that they prefer printed materials when consuming information they need to learn. (Read the entire report on this research here.)

Once the report on the survey was completed, we realized one important thing: all of this data paints a nice high-level synopsis of how and when Millennials want their educational content, but if a Millennial were to read the results, could they reaffirm our findings? That’s why we contacted a Millennial who is very active in the association industry, Emily Wiseman at Association Management Partners & Executive Directors (AMPED). Emily works on membership strategies to meeting planning and has a diverse client base in the association field. She was a great person to ask for feedback because she has her ear to the ground in what’s going on with associations.

Here’s what Emily had to say:

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Emily Wiseman – AMPED

Omnipress: Are you part of the 50% of respondents that prefer printed materials when you need to commit something to memory?

Emily: “Definitely! There is something about physically holding materials and writing things down when I need to learn. I do think it has to do a lot with the visual aspect of learning – as one respondent mentioned, with a physical book, you can recount things from a specific place on a page and visualize that when you are trying to recall information. With digital materials, it is harder to do that.”

Omnipress: Do you agree that we’re seeing a shift to more digital materials, yet there still remains a print version of most materials?

Emily: “We manage seven different trade and professional associations and, in 2016, they will all be using a mobile app for their annual meeting. Many of them have been using a mobile app for the last 4-5 years already. While the addition of digital materials is adopted very quickly, I would say the elimination of printed materials happens much more slowly. The types of printed materials varies from group to group – some still print a limited number of program books in addition to having it available digitally through their app, while some only print a pocket-sized “schedule at-a-glance” with the most important information that will slip right in to their badge holder. One group has a printed scientific program but keeps the exhibitor guide digitally through the app. In many cases, reducing the number of printed materials amounts to a costs savings, but it’s important that we stay smart about what is printed and what is digital. We do this by listening to member feedback and staying current with studies such as the Omnipress Millennials & Print study.”

Omnipress: In the future, as digital educational materials become more readily available, will you still have a need/desire for printed versions?

Emily: “Yes. Digital materials just were not what the majority of my education was based on—I learned from reading off a page, taking notes with a pen and paper. Education aside, a mobile app will never be as fast as glancing down at a pocket planner to determine what room I’m headed to next. In that same vein, a printed program won’t ever be able to vibrate to remind me of my next session or send me a text message letting me know the room has changed. I believe the two will go hand-in-hand for a while yet.”

Omnipress: Can you give us, in your own words, your overall thought on digital vs print when it comes to educational materials? How you feel things will change in the future, how you prefer them, etc.?

Emily: “I think that, when it comes to educational materials, I will always favor print over digital. While we (Millennials) are the first generation to “grow up” with technology, the technology we grew up with is completely different than it is today and it was used in completely different ways. I had access to a computer both at home and school, but in elementary school it was used to learn to type. In middle school it was used to learn Word and Excel. In high school, it was used for research and writing papers. I wasn’t reading text books online, I wasn’t taking class notes on a laptop. The first iPad was introduced in my sophomore year of college and I didn’t purchase one until I graduated. While it is possible to highlight and markup materials digitally on an iPad, it was never part of my educational life—I didn’t learn to learn on one. On the other hand, my nine-year-old niece has them in her second grade classroom. The way she interfaces with technology and digital materials in her education is going to be much different than mine. The iPad to her will likely be her main tool for learning, while it was never part of mine. It would be interesting to see her generation respond to these questions in 20 years. I think it will be a long time before we completely say goodbye to print materials, if at all.”

Do you agree with what Emily had to say? Do you believe that printed materials are better for educational materials and absorbing materials that need to be learned?