How to engage with Millennials is one of the most talked-about topics in the events industry. Organizers have focused on understanding their learning preferences, their travel behaviors, and their workplace expectations. While these insights are indeed important for the meeting industry’s continued success, it’s equally critical to look beyond Millennials to the crowd of conference participants who are coming after them: Generation Z.
Sure, some members of Generation Z aren’t old enough to register for a conference yet. After all, the group includes some individuals who were born in 2010. However, Generation Z includes those born in 1995. The oldest members of Generation Z are graduating college and looking for employment opportunities. As they begin their professional lives, they need the traditional benefits associated with conventions: networking opportunities and career connections.
It Starts With Inspiration
Where should you look to figure out what Generation Z wants? A good place to start is how they’re engaging with the companies that will help them to get to and from one of your events. Expedia recently unveiled new research on what Generation Z is looking for in a travel experience, and not surprisingly, their searches for where to go and what to do start on their screens. Eighty-four percent of Generation Z travelers indicated that social media can be particularly influential, and inspirational images in particular are effective in convincing them to leave home. The finding echoes a key takeaway from David Stillman, a Generation X researcher who focuses on Generation Z and presenter at the MANOVA Summit in Minneapolis on Oct. 9.
“This generation craves visual communication,” Stillman said. “They want emojis, videos, and other appealing images.”
Consider what the average Generation Z prospective attendee sees when s/he opens Instagram or Snapchat — awe-inspiring perspectives from the tops of mountains with filters that turn the sky a new shade of blue, funny videos from close friends documenting a long commute home, and other images that stir some sense of an emotional connection. Now, think about some of the marketing campaigns for meetings and events that include photos of a presenter on stage, a ballroom of people looking at that stage, or a group of participants at a bar. The typical approach doesn’t exactly feel synonymous with “inspiration.”
Believe It or Not, They Do Want to See People
Wait, some organizers might say, even the most captivating images and videos aren’t going to inspire a generation of digital natives to put down their screens. However, Stillman offered a statistic that should make all organizers optimistic: 84 percent of Generation Z respondents indicated that they prefer face-to-face communication. It’s clear that they are still looking for the kind of human connections that can form at events. Getting their attention, though, will likely require different thinking. Check out “12 Ways to Market to Generation Z” to get started.
Interested in more insights into this new cast of conference attendees? Read “Here’s How Gen Z Looks at Data — and What It Means for Your Strategy.”