If I had a dollar for every time my Gen X colleague heckled me for wearing ripped jeans, I’d have enough money to buy a house and enjoy avocado toast. All jokes aside, it’s no secret that Millennials are inherently different from their Generation X counterparts. Things that entertain us Millennials (think Starbucks, avocados, pumpkin patch photo shoots), may not interest Gen Xers — and that’s ok.
Where the trouble lies in our varying interests is how to engage the two at the same time. Currently, there is a large mix of Millennials and Gen Xers coexisting in the workplace. That means that both of these generations will be in attendance at the same conferences, meetings and events. This makes event planner’s already difficult job even harder as they try to come up with creative ways to engage and involve both these groups at their events.
A colleague and I recently hosted a webinar with BizBash Live. During the webinar, we briefly shared an example of a seminar about engaging Millennials and we got so many questions about it afterward, it sparked me to write this blog. So speaking as a Millennial, here are my tips for engaging us at your next event:
1. Embrace mobile-first
It’s true, us Millennials are glued to our phones. But instead of trying to fight it, embrace mobile at your next event to engage Millennials.
There are lots of ways you can incorporate smartphones or tablets into your event. For example, having a personalized, dedicated event app is a great way to actually promote mobile usage at your event, while providing valuable information to attendees. You can also make use of QR codes by placing them in strategic places throughout your event and having attendees scan them for more information, or points towards a game. Having these elements let’s Millennials know it’s ok – and actually encouraged – for them to use their phones. Just make sure the WiFi is reliable at your event, because nothing angers a Millennial more than spotty WiFi… except maybe a shortage of pumpkin flavored things in October.
2. Encourage social media
In keeping with our mobile first theme, it’s a good idea to incorporate social media at your event. Us Millennials love our social media and are all about Instagram-worthy experiences. We want to be able to show our friends via social media we were part of a unique event. (Yes, I know. We aren’t the most humble generation).
Help your attendees #humblebrag about your event by promoting social media use. Create an event hashtag that can be used in all event-related posts. You can then use a social wall to display everyone’s posts in real-time if they have the hashtag. Another great way to engage Millennials through social media at your event is having a ‘best photo’ competition, where attendees can snap a selfie or a picture of the event using the hashtag. At the end of the day, the best photo/caption wins!
3. Promote involvement & interaction
It’s not enough to strictly provide information at your event, Millennials want to be immersed in the event from start to finish. They want to be active participants and feel like they are an important part of your event to stay engaged.
Involving attendees in an event can be done in a variety of ways. One way is through live polling during a session. Asking questions out to the audience in the middle of the session shows attendees that they are part of the presentation. It’s also important to provide an opportunity for Millennials to engage with each other, not just the event. Include several breaks for networking and make it even easier with lunch and learns or round tables with specific topics that attendees can actively participate in.
4. Incorporate the latest tech
Millennials are the most tech-oriented age cohort as many of us have grown up in the Internet era. Younger Millennials may not even remember a time without the Internet, or back when we had to use dial-up (the sound of dial-up still haunts my dreams). Because of this, it’s important to offer the latest tech at your event.
From online registration to interactive kiosks, Millennials want everything to be streamlined using tech. You can even add an element of fun with the use of tech by including VR or AR at your event.
5. Engage with games
Lastly, Millennials are a competitive bunch. While Gen X jokes that we are the ‘participation award’ era, we really do love a good, friendly competition! Ramp up the competition at your event with games, such as event app gamification, a QR code scavenger hunt, life-size Jenga, bean bag toss and more. Make every activity worth points and at the end, the attendee with the most points can win a prize. Another great idea is to exchange points for cool swag. At a conference I attended a few years ago, I won enough points to get a dog hoodie. It really doesn’t get much more Millennial than that.
How to Engage Millennials
Engaging Millennials doesn’t have to be tricky. Ultimately, engaging Millennials is all about creating an interactive, memorable experience. Bonus points if they can share it via social media and give their friends FOMO.