Ask event organizers about the issues on their minds, and you’re likely to hear about one big challenge: How to develop a program that appeals to multiple generations. While satisfying the needs of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials is a tricky balancing act, the meetings and events industry may be taking the wrong approach. Michael Tchong, founder of Ubercool Innovation and adjust professor of innovation at University of San Francisco and UC Berkeley, told participants at PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2018 that the current business environment has paved the way to a new category that does not use birth dates in its definition. He calls it the “control-freak generation,” powered by Netflix, Uber, and every other business that gives customers a heightened sense of authority.
Tchong used pizza chain Dominos as an example. Its Pizza Tracker tool is an online system that lets customers know exactly when their pizza enters the oven, when it passes a “quality check,” and when it heads out the door. The customer always has access to information. The moment-to-moment whereabouts of a large pepperoni pizza might seem trivial, but Tchong said that the monitoring technology translates to serious cash. Since unveiling the tool, Dominos stock has performed significantly better than Alphabet, Apple, and a range of other Wall Street darlings. “Relentless innovation,” Tchong said, “drives financial success.”
Hotels Embrace Control Freaks
Consider an example closer to the events industry: Hilton’s new Connected Room. When guests check into a Hilton property, they can use the hotel’s app to control temperature and lighting. However, the feature that seems even more tailored to Tchong’s control-freak generation is the ability to upload artwork and photos to display in the room. Forget looking at the portraits the property chose; guests can put their personal creative touches on their room’s decor.
“By putting so much control in the palms of our hands,” Tchong said, “it’s propelling our growing urge to control our world.”
Control Freaks at Conferences
What will control freaks expect to be able to do at meetings and conferences? They’ll want to be able to submit song requests for walk-in music to a general session, to submit orders for customized meals that they can pick up as soon as they arrive at lunch, and to pick a specific seat on a shuttle bus to sit next to a colleague en route to an evening reception.
As event organizers look ahead to the future, it’s important to consider Tchong’s advice. “Offer your customers efficient, speedy services that are simple to understand,” he said, “and help them manage their increasingly valuable disposable time.”
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