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May 7, 2013

Meetings, Events and Generation X: Industry Insiders Share their Insights


Last week, we looked at a report from Amsterdam RAI that analyzes what Generations X and Y look for in meetings and events, and then studied what the youngest generation of event attendees wants. Today, we take a look at Generation X—the last generation to grow up without Internet access at home, the last generation to play outside more often than they played online and the first generation to  accept the title of the "Me Generation."   

“Generation X’ers [identified in the study as 35-50-year-olds] are very pragmatic when it comes to making decisions, mainly because they suffer the most from the current economic crisis. They are not loyal if they can get a better deal somewhere else. They often have a cynic world view and are very conscious of media and marketing. Many of them are project parents, which describes the overinvolvement when it comes to their children.” Planners working with this age group should “provide transparent information with a personal touch” and “rationalize all costs & give security / warranty.” (For example, put offers and discounts at the heart of all communication. “Show how much visitors will be able to save when buying products at the exhibition. Compare exhibition-prices with retail prices. Guarantee a vast amount of products that are cheaper during the exhibition.”)

To prevent X-ers from being disappointed after a visit to the event, the report suggests, it is important to show what they can expect. “Especially ensure that you don’t make promises that you can’t keep. One way is by showing previous editions of the event, using film clips, preferred last edition features, and the like.” Planners looking to attract Gen X-ers will need to communicate on a personal level, “not as a big company but on a close and human scale. Who are the real people behind the event, the brand or the stand? You can, for instance, make nametags more personal by adding hobbies, children, and personal likes.”

The Planners Respond

After the report was released, meeting planners gathered on Twitter for the weekly #expochat session. Moderator Traci Browne noted the description of Generation as cynical, and wondered how planners can use that knowledge to create an experience that they want.

Marlys Arnold said that shows can't rely on the status quo if they want to attract that middle generation: “[You] must prove why GenXers need to spend their time to attend,” she said. Browne agreed that no planner—or show—could rest on laurels. “You're only as good as your last show...if even.”

Andrea K. Bahr, a Systems Manager at dmg::events, suggested giving attendees a forum to challenge the professionals, ask questions and network with others to "verify" statements. Sanne Jolles, who helped compile the study with Amsterdam RAI, suggested using audits, and advised planners to “be as clear and honest as you possibly can…Gen X is a critical audience - make sure to manage expectations, [and] do not over-promise.” 

Michelle Bruno, publisher of Event Tech Brief, said she believed that Generation X “would be good on advisory board to be a little skeptical about ideas that are too ‘out there,’” and added that the generation “might be the first to criticize a bad event publicly so [planners] need to manage them appropriately.”

Browne noted that the Amsterdam RAI report also described Generation X as “pragmantic,” and asked how planners can take that quality into consideration when creating an event. Answering her own question, she suggested providing them with an ROI worksheet of attendees and exhibitors. 

Jolles said that planners need to give clear, smart information to Gen-X attendees. “Have booth staff that know their stuff and know their products,” and Browne agreed: “We want facts and info...not a pretty picture or pitch.” Stephanie Selesnick advised having more tech people staffing the booths, and fewer salespeople and marketers.

Before the chatters could suggest other solutions, Rachel Wimberly, editor-in-chief of the Trade Show News Network, lamented that “us Gen-Xers sound so complainy, needy and boring.” The observation drew a range of responses from the largely Gen-X crowd: Bahr: “Yes, and smart!” Arnold: “We're simply a no-frills, get-to-the-point, & don't-waste-my-time generation! We get things done.” Browne: “We're the ones who make sure things get done, promises kept and no one's wasting time on pinterest.” 

Read the full transcript of the chat session here and sound off in the comments below. What do you think planners need to do to get Gen-Xers to come to their events?


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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox





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