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by Elizabeth Zielinski, CMM | May 13, 2014

This time of year is full of graduations, and with each one we are welcoming a new group of freshly educated young professionals into the working world. Right now, that’s the Millennials (also referred to as Generation Y), their influence having been felt in the workforce since roughly the mid-2000s when the first of their generation began graduating from college. And any influence on a workforce is also an influence on your meetings.

The Pew Research Center (www.pewresearch.org) published the results of its extensive surveys on Millennials in March this year. Lots of data is available within the reports about the demographics of this group, and I encourage you to read more about it on the center's website to learn how you can incorporate ideas into your conference attendance.

But one thing I’ve noticed about commentary on any younger generation is that it tends to have a certain dismissive or disdainful tone, as if the group hasn’t earned the right to be taken seriously yet. This generation, more so than any other, wields more influence than its predecessors because of the advances in technology and connectivity that accompanied their entrance into the world. You cannot afford to minimize the influence they wield, and the meetings industry will have to adjust its offerings to include them in the audience. For example:

Make sure you have several channels for interaction for your attendee experience. Millennials want to be in touch, but they don’t necessarily want to engage. Self-service options with minimal direct interaction will be popular for this group, such as live blogging, social media and video instruction. An “attendee” is no longer someone who is physically present.

Your digital presence should adapt to the devices Millennials use. For your events, you need both a great regular website and a mobile version. Plus, the mobile version must be quick to load and easy to navigate from the multiple devices your Millennials will be using to see your site. Remember, too, that as technology changes, this group will be the first to change with it. So staying up-to-date with the latest advances is critical to claiming some of their attention.
 
Be sure to promote your value proposition. The value that your meeting provides in exchange for the time and money you want from a Millennial has to be part of any interaction you have with that attendee base. Time is their most critical resource, and they will take the option that requires the least of it, unless they see the value of giving you more.
 
Exploit their willingness to give you information. Millennials are comfortable sharing information about their habits and preferences, and they are willing to give you that information generously if it benefits them, with returns like free or discounted products and services. Use this to your advantage to learn more about the changing world in which you are planning your events.

Finally, remember that this is the largest generational group to enter the workforce since the Baby Boomers beginning in the late 1960s. Their influence has already been felt and will continue to grow with each year. Understanding how they operate can make or break your meetings.

How have you incorporated the Millennials into your meetings in recent years? I’d love to hear what others are doing. Respond in the comments below or via email to LizontheBiz@gmail.com, or tweet me @E_Zielinski.