Millennials as a New Meeting Trend?

Smart Meetings recently posted the “Five New Meeting Trends to be Aware of” including:

  1. Weekend meetings are becoming more common
  2. Companies are holding more meetings online
  3. Mobility is key
  4. Meetings are growing shorter
  5. Video meetings translate into eco-savings

We are seeing all of these with our clients, especially an increase in weekend meetings. But, the biggest trend we are experiencing is the influence millennial attendees are having on meetings. The stereotype is that millennials are all about digital communication – email, text, social media – and not about face-to-face communication, but studies have shown that millennials value face-to-face networking just as much as the rest of us.

Millennials now represent the largest segment of US workers, and modern workplaces are adapting to meet the needs and wants of this newest generation of workers. That means the meetings industry also has to adapt in order to attract the attention, and attendance, of millennials.

According to recent report from Meetings Mean Business and Skift (”What Millennials Want in Meetings”):

“…meetings and events offer the best possible platform to help Millennials expand their networks, customize their self-education, and personalize their career paths. That is why Millennials are advocating for more effective meeting design and better ways to connect, both physically and virtually, in a shifting and highly competitive global marketplace. Major meeting industry organizations are supplying the research about why companies and associations should implement new meeting strategies. There’s also a wave of new event tech suppliers who have the tools to facilitate it, which also provide metrics data that help prove their ROI. Now, Millennials are saying, it’s time for meeting owners to take more advantage of all that intelligence and deliver on the promise of the future.”

Yes, Millennials want technology and social media and apps, but throwing those things at a meeting without a strategy and without adapting other meeting elements isn’t the answer to fulling engaging millennials. 

Just like diversity in meetings, engaging millennials isn’t just a tactical item that can be checked off on a list.  Engagement of any demographic requires careful thought and planning in the meeting design process. For millennials, this may include less of the traditional meeting sessions that involve a speaker/lecture format and more open sessions where people can communicate directly and have conversation. It may also mean creating content in a format that lends itself to online sharing (no, telling attendees to take pictures of the screen and post it doesn’t count), or changing meal functions to formats that facilitate more communication among people with similar interests (no, adding a bingo game at a cocktail reception doesn’t count either).  It may also mean less structured breakout sessions, and more “drop-in” type sessions or discussion groups.

There isn’t a quick fix or just one item that will engage millennials and attract them to your event. If you have been hosting annual events for years and following the same playbook (as many annual events do), it’s time to start making changes in strategy, communication methods, meeting logistics, meeting content, etc.  Essentially, making changes throughout the entire meeting and then measuring the impact of the changes to identify what will best engage the newest (and youngest) members of your audience, while still engaging the Baby Boomers and Gen X’s too.

What successful changes have you made in meeting strategy that Millennials have embraced?