October 24, 2022
By Mike Fletcher

Move over Millennials, the first Centennials turned 25 this year. Failing to connect with their values, beliefs and expectations will pose a significant challenge to both event planners and workplace employers.

Alistair Turner, the author of an annual Future Trends Report for the Barcelona-based IBTM World exhibition has been studying the plethora of studies into Centennials - the first generation to be born in this century, otherwise known as Generation Z.

Turner’s conclusions aren’t particularly complimentary towards a youth cohort, the first of whom turned 25 this year. During his somewhat satirical Cvent CONNECT session earlier this month, Turner labelled an entire generation, ‘massively entitled’, ‘angry’ ‘lacking in optimism’ ‘hyper cynical’ and ‘desperate for the truth’.

Fortunately, Becky Harmer, Global Brand Experience Manager at Snap and Aarron McGurk, Executive & Projects Assistant at Chorus were on-hand to defend the under 25s, justifying the character traits of a generation fighting to reconcile their desire for change with growing financial anxiety and a deepening concern about the state of the world.

Harmer says: “As a Millennial, we were the last generation to be told, go have adventures, borrow money to buy flats, and live frivolously without guilt. Millennials believe whatever we’re told on Facebook and remain optimistic that we can achieve anything we set our sights on.

McGurk agrees stating: “They’re angry because they’re coping with societal traumas, which were exacerbated by Covid. They’re the first generation to be told that ‘it’s okay to not be okay’ and they’re living out their traumas and searching for their own personal truths online.”

The evidence that supports these views includes Deloitte’s Global 2022 Gen Z & Millennial Survey. It found that centennials regularly feel stressed and anxious with both their long-term financial futures and their day-to-day living costs, as they attempt to balance paying more to make sustainable choices with jobs that align with their values and provide flexible working conditions.

According to Deloitte, only 18% of centennials believe their employers are strongly committed to fighting climate change. They want to see employers prioritising visible climate actions that enable them to get directly involved along with creating more diverse, inclusive and flexible workplace environments.

“This is where that sense of entitlement comes from,” says Turner. “They look back at how societal and workplace environments used to be and all they see is failure. Rightly or wrongly, they feel that they could do a better job so demand fast-tracking and promotions that don’t correspond to their experience.”

“On the flip-side, they have all the knowledge at their digital fingertips and skillsets we just don’t know the value of as yet,” counters Harmer. “Due to the way they consume content on channels such as TikTok and YouTube, event and meetings planners need to replicate these short, energy-fuelled formats in order to engage and hold their attention.”

McGurk concurs: “Meeting planners and brand marketers need to meet this generation where they are and that’s on TikTok. Content needs to be authentic and empathetic because they won’t stand for bullshit. They work smart and believe that anything can be learned by watching a YouTube video. That may come across as arrogant but it means employers and brands need to be transparent and unfiltered when communicating with them.”

The fact is that, with the first centennials already climbing the corporate ladder and attending meetings and events both online and in-person, planners need to consider them as a key audience when structuring content programmes and designing their Total Event Programmes.

Event design considerations that meet Gen Z demands include greater focus on accessibility, inclusivity, wellness and sustainability. Remember, centennials may only be expectant attendees today but tomorrow, or one day soon, they’ll hold the keys to the company and be fully in charge of change.

The Rise of the Centennials: Why We Really Need to Pay Attention, from this year's Cvent CONNECT Europe will be available to watch on-demand until 4 November. Log-in to the Cvent Attendee Hub to view the session. 

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.

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