Want to Future-Proof Your Events? Delight a Gen Z Audience.

Freeman’s recent Gen Z Report suggests tactics to start cultivating this growing attendee base.

Author: Magdalina Atanassova       

bald man with goatee and glasses speaking on stage

Ken Holsinger, Freeman’s senior vice president for strategy, presents the EduCon 2023 session, “Attracting & Engaging Next-Generation Event Attendees.” (Whatever Media Group)

The generation that needs more socialization and hand-holding, but is also transforming work cultures — Gen Z — now makes up fewer than one out of 10 in the labor pool, according to a recent Fast Company article. However, they contribute to the new wave of Next Gen attendees identified in a Freeman report Convene wrote about a few months ago.

Because Gen Z — the generation born between 1997 to 2012 — in particular is “weighing which events (if any) to attend in person,” according to another piece of research from Freeman, the recently published Gen Z Report, “they’re looking for ones that take burnout and boredom into account with balanced programming.” In Gen Z terms, “cringe” events are overprogrammed and don’t allow enough time for making connections and exploring new ideas.

These are among the insights Ken Holsinger, Freeman’s senior vice president for strategy, shared at an EduCon 2023 session in June. Promoting the value of events to self-reliant, pragmatic, and always-connected Gen Zers is challenging, he said. Despite the generation’s occasional reluctance to participate in them, in-person events have a positive impact on trust and loyalty with Gen Z. They see brands as more honest (69 percent) and good at what they do (68 percent) after some live interaction. In fact, more than seven out of 10 Gen Zers said their trust increased following their interaction with a brand at a live event. This is where activations at events can help future-proof a brand — if done right. “The next generation won’t accept events that look the same as they used to,” Holsinger said, urging organizers to avoid the SALY (same as last year).

Event planners need to “roll out the red carpet (points for a recycled one),” Freeman’s report advises, and devise strategies to guide the newcomers who are taking their first steps at business events. As Fast Company noted, Gen Zers “require more hand-holding and overcommunication” in the workplace, and the same holds true at events.

Freeman’s report suggests offering educational and training opportunities that offer face time with industry experts and tailoring networking and social opportunities to attract younger audiences enough to bring them out from behind their screens. That means featuring activities that cannot be replicated online, like including elements from the music, food or fan festivals they flock to.

In just seven years, almost one-third of the labor pool will be Gen Zers, according to Fast Company. “This rising group of consumers is both reluctant and curious,” according to Freeman’s report. “Understanding this dynamic” and starting now to make format changes to make your event more engaging and interactive — while also helping them navigate the event environment — the report concludes, “will help future-proof your event.”

Magdalina Atanassova is digital media editor of Convene.

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