Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 26 2013

The Next Generation of Meeting Attendees

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

Think big. Think new. Think quick.

That’s what Mike Walsh, bestselling author of Futuretainment and CEO of global innovation lab Tomorrow, told attendees in a keynote address at the PCMA Education Conference in Denver on June 26. As meeting professionals look to the future, Walsh urges planners and suppliers alike to recognize that the future is upon us - - now.

While it’s important to look at trends and statistics, Walsh cautions against piling data together and making assumptions about what attendees will prefer at tomorrow’s meetings.

“It’s quite dangerous to make generalizations about the next generation,” Walsh said.

In fact, Walsh doesn’t even think in traditional Gen. X, Gen. Y or Millennial terms.

“I don’t believe in generations,” Walsh said.

SEE ALSO: How to Manage a Multi-Generational Trade Show Audience

Mobile is a Must

Now, Walsh looks ahead to the future as one group: the smartphone generation. From 2007 (the year of the iPhone introduction) and beyond, everyone will grow up with the anytime, anywhere access to making connections and reading content.

“The next generation of attendees will have a radically different mindset and communication paradigm shaped by a childhood of disruptive technology,” Walsh said.

It’s very important to note that this does place some significant pressure on meeting planners who are still waiting to develop mobile applications for their meetings. While some planners may attribute the lack of an app to an aging audience, this excuse creates a cause for concern. How will you replace that aging audience if young prospective attendees perceive your meeting as an old-school experience that is failing to catch up with technology? Walsh’s presentation asked a question that deserves an answer: if your meeting isn’t mobile, will your audience even know it is happening?

SEE ALSO: How to Take Your Meeting Mobile

Where to Turn for Your Education

For meeting professionals with children, you might not need to go far to get some advice on how to arrange your meeting.

“If your kids had your job, how would they do it differently?” Walsh asked.

If you can’t turn to your own kids for help, Walsh recommended turning to someone else’s by setting up a youth lab, recruiting some children and asking them to imagine the kind of event they would like to participate in.

As your organization looks ahead and works to determine how to stay relevant, Walsh recommends taking a step back and answering one additional key question: are you fighting the future or training for it?

Interested in learning more about the next generation of meeting attendees? Click here to download a PDF of his slides and here to visit the official Mike Walsh website.

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