Digital or In-Person? Gen Z’s Surprising Pick for Future Events

Author: Michelle Russell       

According to results from a recent PCMA survey, a majority of Gen Z respondents are eager to return to in-person events.

One of the most commonly held perceptions about Gen Z — defined as eight- to 25-year-olds — is that they are addicted to technology and have difficulty interacting face-to-face. The results of a recent PCMA survey, conducted by JUV Consulting and sponsored by the PCMA Foundation, would beg to differ.

Gretta Kissell

Gretta Kissell

The majority of 560 survey participants — 27 percent of whom are between the ages of 21-24 — are most excited about returning to in-person events in a post-COVID world, versus seeing how hybrid events develop or having more options for digital events.

That’s an insight you can only gain by asking members of that generation, not by making assumptions on their behalf — which is how JUV Consulting got its start. It was founded in 2016 by a couple of 16-year-olds who found themselves in rooms with politicians, leaders, and generational experts who were talking about how to capture Gen Z’s attention, said JUV Managing Partner Gretta Kissell, without asking for their input.

“JUV was really founded on the concept of ‘talk with us, don’t just talk about us,’” Kissell said, “and also a deep belief that we are the generation of means and movements. It was founded to give Gen Z a seat at the table.”

PCMA learned about JUV Consulting from Nadya Okamoto, a Main Stage speaker at Convening Leaders 2019, who served as JUV’s chief brand officer from 2018 to 2020. JUV works with clients from nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies, “really pushing them to use their positions and use their influence to make the world better — a world that Gen Z wants and is looking for and is challenging us all to push towards,” Kissell said. “In a more literal sense, we specialize in focusing on impact and marketing” — from research to strategy to implementation services.

The PCMA survey was sent via text and email in late fall of 2020 to “The Receipt,” JUV’s network of 4,500 individuals from around the globe. These are Gen Z members “who not only help with our research, but also are part of our larger community that we engage with to provide them with different opportunities,” Kissell said. Some of JUV’s network are in high school, “with a decent amount in college and some that are on the older end of Gen Z,” she added, “who have graduated and have a couple of years in the workforce.” And some, like Kissell herself, are on gap year.

Getting back to that broad brushstroke statement that Gen Z is uncomfortable with in-person interactions, Kissell said that COVID-19 has only made that more untrue. “I think this is a very common misperception,” she said. “We are digital natives, and we do understand online, but that doesn’t mean that we want every single experience of our lives to be online. We’re a generation that just also really values experiences. And even though we might capture that differently and we might incorporate a lot more of digital elements into that, we still like to be in-person. We miss seeing and talking with people and getting that kind of face-to-face interaction.”

More results of the survey appear in the March-April issue of Convene and by clicking this headline: “What Would Gen Z Change About Events?

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.