Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

August 2012

Unconventional: Five Surprises From a New Millenials Study

By Michelle Russell, Editor and Chief

In the largest survey of its kind ever conducted, the PCMA Education Foundation recently commissioned researchers to investigate the Millennial generation’s attitudes toward meetings.  George Fenich, Ph.D., Sheila Scott-Halsell, Ph.D., and Godwin-Charles Ogbeide, Ph.D., collected feedback from more than 2,000 respondents ages 18 to 30.  Not surprisingly, the results - released in June - reveal that traditional meeting formats don’t appeal to this generation. (Read highlights of the study or the complete results.)

But Convene’s editors -- two Baby Boomers, a Gen Xer, and two Millennials -- were surprised by some of the results.  In keeping with this issue’s cover story theme, here are our top five picks that bucked conventional wisdom regarding Gen Y, which is often presented as entitled, Twitter-happy, and bored with formatting:

PowerPoint passes muster
More than 73 percent of respondents said they like PowerPoint presentations; less than 13 percent were not fans. 

Not all a-Twitter
Around 40 percent did not like sessions where they could “tweet the speaker”; only 16 percent liked those Twitter opportunities very much. 

Structurally sound
Eighty-seven percent want structure at meetings they attend.  Convene Executive Editor (and Gen Xer) Christopher Durso surmised that it “probably has something to do with growing up with scheduled play dates, gymnastics, karate, and French classes, etc.” Assistant Editor Katie Kervin (an older Millennial) added: “That age group is just out of school and new to their careers.  They are probably not only used to a structured environment, but may be somewhat unsure of themselves at events, and so appreciate knowing exactly what to do and when.  You can see in the results that as Millennials get older (25–30), they appreciate more interaction and to be mentally challenged, possibly because they are more sure of themselves professionally.”

Greenish
Nearly 30 percent said that green practices were not important to them; another quarter of those who responded didn't really care either way.  While Senior Editor Barbara Palmer was surprised by that lack of environmental concern, once she started looking, she found several recent studies with similar results, including one written up on The Atlantic magazine’s website, which seemed to back up Kervin’s premise that “the discussion of sustainability issues is so familiar to millennials that they are almost tired of hearing about it (or at least don’t feel like it’s a ‘hot button’ issue for meetings).  Perhaps they no longer need for it to be stressed at meetings.”

Face-to-face is the fave
Millennials ranked face-to-face as their first communication-channel choice, well above social-media outlets.  “I have to say, I’m most surprised by the fact that face- to-face events won out,” said Assistant Editor (and younger Millennial) Sarah Beauchamp, “when our generation is working to develop a thousand ways people can connect without being in the same room.”  

Sidebar:Key Findings

Top-line results of the Millennials survey spell out five key findings that meeting professionals can put into action to attract and retain the newest generation of attendees:

  1. Make decisions for them Millennials want short, simple, and structured meetings. 
  2. Help them connect This generation expects Wi-Fi at their meetings. After all, if they can get it for free at a café, shouldn't it be available at their next convention?
  3. Make learning fun All these respondents are looking for education with entertainment. From gamification to visual learning, think of ways to transform learning into an engaging and electrifying experience. 
  4. Show them individual impact If you demonstrate what they’ll earn for attending (job opportunities, scholarships, and career coaching), they will register. 
  5. Know your audience Needs and expectations vary at opposite ends of the Millennial age spectrum. Planners should remember that older Millennials are less interested in social activities and more interested in being mentally challenged. 
More Resources
Read a Convene article featuring interviews with Gen Y meeting professionals.

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