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  • Writer's pictureMEaT Insights

Next-Gen Engagement Strategies: How can we engage with the next generation when planning events?

Updated: May 20

Earlier this month we were invited out by Prevue Meetings and Incentives for an engaging and inciteful conference in Las Vegas. Part of their Visionary Summit Series, the focus was on strategies to engage and enthuse the next generation with our events. Something we as an events agency are being asked about more and more on when planning events with our clients.

Here are James Bacon's (Director - We Are MEaT) key takes from the summit conference.

Creating experience based events:

Language and how we use it when explaining event to Next-Gen planners and delegates is key. So for example, breakout sessions can be looked at in a different more creative engaging way. Can we use different areas or zones with different seating. Some can be pods or booths, some more relaxed with perhaps DJs playing to keep energy high across breaks? Do we need to call them breakout sessions or areas? Why not reboot the terminology for something needed with forums and conference based events especially. But maybe the term Breakout doesn't excite or engage anymore?

The best way to build an experience is to tell a story. Create engagement and sign up to your future events by talking about why your are having the event and the value to them to attend. Explain the story behind the event, the experience that it will bring to them and the memories it will generate across the attendees for years to come. This is can be of huge value with group activities or challenges on incentives. What better way to build your company culture and show value to your talent by giving them an experience, a memories of something they did and achieved together outside of the workspace?

What I particularly liked about this conference, and on reflection something so simple to add in - change the set up of your seating and layout to your forums and conferences.

Add different types of seating rather than conventional plans. We had different areas from formal round table set up to comfy chairs and event VIP type podium spaces with couches. Maybe event have some beanbag seating. While some may like the more traditional set up, many of the next-gen engage and absorb content sessions better in a more relaxed environment. Why we are moving from more traditional styles. Lose the podium and have your speakers be free to move about the stage to engage more with the audience. Let's face it, most podiums are there just as a base to store notes and host your clicker!

Technology that is effective:

Next-Gen consume multiple information sources quicker and more frequently. This is also something that is only going to become event faster. So long long form presentations or marketing content is becoming less engaging as the attention spans become less. Soundbite your content to 2 minutes or less. Restructure your long form presentations to remove the multiple slides and incorporate grab moments across each topic.

We can use tech better in event to excite, connect and help marketers track engagement performance in event. We were given an example of technology now that can be integrated into your event lanyards. What this does is make your lanyard exciting by lighting up or flashing at certain moments. Rather than scanning codes on stand or registration, you can tap another lanyard to immediately connect via platforms such as LinkedIn. It also can be used for marketers to track (data policy permitting) areas where your attendees go. So you can then streamline your events and take out areas of no real interaction, or build on areas that are popular.

Rather than long reviews post event that rarely get returned or completed in full. why mot add in push buttons in event similar to those at airports. On leaving a session press a happy, normal of sad face emoji type button. That way you will get instant real time impressions on the effectiveness of your content sessions.

Apps and AI - whilst we are still adapting and integrating AI into all things events. Apps have been something that have been either poor in design or clunky to use and therefore under-utilised across events. Next-gen are gamers - fact. So lets use that into our event apps in some way. Give them a fun reason to use the app and connect with people using the app at the event. It's not enough just to use it a social media challenge to promote them and your event.

Diversity - move beyond original labels:

Next-gen's are in general and thankfully moving beyond labels behind diversity. They are more aware and more inclusive of all diversity aspect and needs. One example is the inclusion of the neuro diverse. Think about colours and noises and room set up used in your events.

Accept and learn from the new ways the next gen work and live. They are fearless and are not afraid to to bring up their wants and needs. So the increasing trend of home/work life balance is not just a pandemic fad. It's very much now a key part when recruiting and keeping talent. Mental health awareness and the need for mental health breaks of days off will continue grow to be a key factor.

To other generations brought up on a "suck it up buttercup" or working and travelling extensive hours to "get the job done" is admiral. But are we already seeing the impact heath wise and in families of a culture that adopted and passed on this way of working. Do the next-gen's have a point in reimagine how we work?

As a father of two, I am still baffled with the need my children have around the likes of youtube and socialising online with friends rather than in person. But it is something that any parent will now say needs to be accepted, it is now how children interact. So as much as we need to instil certain older generational values to our next gen's. We also need to appreciate it's a two way street and learn to accept and adapt ways in which they work, socialise and value aspects in society.

Health and Wellness:

With shorter attention spans, more emotional and mental health awareness. Along with wanting to be more balanced across all aspects of their work and social life. Next-gen's are more in touch with the need for health and wellness. In terms of how we can bring this into events to benefit engagement and your delegates, why not look at techniques that can be used before a content session to help the delegates with mindset and focus. So for example we explored a group breathing exercise as well as mindset techniques to bring concentration and focus back to the here and now.

When you look at the amount of information we expect our attendees to take on board across an event that could have several content discussions and numerous networking conversations. Would it not make good sense and value to ensure we have our delegates engaged, focussed and switch on before we begin a presentation? Would it not be beneficial to our attendees to offer wellness sessions in their breakout and free time across the event?

Sustainability is a given:

With previous generations with luxury. There is always certain standard or quality as a given. So that furniture is made from the finest, that whiskey is the best..of course we expect it should be, it's a given! Much the same can be said for next gen's approach to sustainability. It's not about making it a part of the event, a show piece of marketing - it should be a given that sustainability has an involvement in your events. As an industry we are striving for that holistic fully sustainable event and moves have certainly been made in recent years towards this. But we are still working our way towards real time gains across the board with events. However, there is so much we can do for sustainability (a topic for another blog) and when engaging with the next gen, we need to include this as any other part of the plan. Not something to highlight and give ourselves a pat on the back for.

The same can be said for CSR programs. Next gen's see give backs as a way to build a positive, society changing experiences and cultural memories.

Adapt, tell not sell, communication, accept, experiences and memories...

If you’d like to learn more about how to make your events engage with the next generation and what strategies are working with our client events, get in touch. We’d be more than happy to talk through it.

Ref: Prevue Conferences and Incentives; Harrahs Las Vegas; Caesers Entertainment; Skipp Martin; Edward Perotti; Dami Kim, Will Curran; Leah Smiley CDE IDC-GGE



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