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May 3, 2013

What Does Generation Y Want from Meetings & Events?


This week, Amsterdam RAI, partnered with Trendsactive and Ruigrok | NetPanel, shared their collective insights regarding Generations X & Y and what these younger professionals look for in meetings and events. The report, “The future of exhibitions and events according to generations X & Y,” is a fascinating look at the minds and mindsets of these event attendees, and offers some solid advice for catering to their needs. 

The Report

“Generation Y [identified in the study as 20-35-year-olds] are used to getting exactly what they want. They are conscious about world problems and love to have specific knowledge & skills that give them value in their networks. Gen Y’ers are children of our visual culture and therefore love everything visual,” the study declares. To that end, Amsterdam RAI suggests creating tailor made service for these attendees and giving them a chance to “co-create” elements of the conference. Communication needs to be “playful and intelligent” and planners should think in terms of “experiences and events.”

For example, the report suggests guided tours for first-time attendees. “Gen Y visitors aren’t very familiar with the exhibition medium. Why not organise guided tours, both on- and offline, that take visitors to the exhibition floor?” And to personalize each guest’s experience, ask detailed questions (perhaps during the registration process) about what they hope to accomplish at the show: “What are you looking for? What do you want to discover? With whom would you like to get in touch? Or give them the opportunity to ask specific questions in advance that they wish to see answered at the event.”

The Planners Respond

In the wake of the report, event planners gathered on Twitter for the weekly #expochat session and began discussing the trends and the advice.  

“Gen Y is described as ‘me-centric,’” moderator Traci Browne (www.twitter.com/tracibrowne) began the chat. “How can we use that knowledge to create an experience they want?”

Michelle Bruno, publisher of Event Tech Brief, agreed that younger attendees do love customization and personalization, “so any outreach should bear that in mind.” She also noted that this generation likes recognition, “so game elements are always good, too.”

Sanne Jolles, who helped compile the study with Amsterdam RAI, said that planners should try to make Gen-Y attendees “feel special and involved” through co-creation and crowdsourcing ideas. Elizabeth Johnson, Director of PR and Content Development for the Frost Miller Group agreed, suggesting that younger attendees could be part of the show planning: “Hold online votes on banquet food choices, speakers, topics [and] show locations.”

The survey also described Gen Y as “conscious & smart,” Browne continued for the next question. “How can we use that knowledge to create an experience they want?” Bruno immediately responded: “They want to save the world, so a tie-in to social causes could be appealing.” Browne agreed, noting that a range of options for different social causes could help reach a wider audience. “One size does not fit all.”

Bruno also noted that the notoriously tech-obsessed generation might want to get involved online in some capacity, and Browne suggested making them “digital mentors” to the less tech-abled attendees. But, Bruno warned, being smart also means they get bored easily. “They crave stimulation.” Marlys Arnold agreed, suggesting that the Gen-Y attendees need “more interaction, gamification, multisensory experiences [and] crowdsourcing - let them have a voice.”

“Instead of committees, use crowdsourcing for educational topics and speakers,” suggested Stephanie Selesnick. “What about an open theater on the show floor around specific topics at certain times?” Jolles had a similar suggestion. “Empower them to learn the way they want to. On [the] show floor, in presentations, online [and] before/during/after event.” 

The final Gen-Y question addressed the report’s statement that the generation has a “visual culture.” “How can we use that knowledge to create an experience they want?” Browne asked. Bruno suggested staying on top of current trends like Gangnam Style, Harlem Shake “and whatever is next so they can participate and then watch themselves.” Rachel Wimberly, editor-in-chief of the Trade Show News Network, recommended using interactive technology on the show floor—“like QR codes, Scavenger Hunts, etc.” Browne, for her part, said that she has come to appreciate Pinterest for events.

Stay tuned for the second part of the report and its response, which will focus on the older show attendees: Generation X. In the meanwhile, you can read the full chat transcript or read the full Amsterdam RAI report.



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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox





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