Ever miss the good ol’ days when the pace of life was slower? When, if you wanted to catch up with an old friend, you sat down and wrote a letter? When work didn’t follow you around 24/7 in your pocket? When you sliced your own bread to make a sandwich? When life (and events) were clearly segregated in age ranges so you never had to interact with other generations? Yeah, I don’t remember that last one, either.
Clearly, different generations have been able to coexist for, well, generations. So, why is this always an interesting and heated topic? Is it because millennials are lazy, unfocused and entitled? Yes, it is. It’s exactly like all “kids these days” have been throughout time.
I was born Oct. 1, 1981. This makes me a Libra and a millennial. Neither is a label that shapes my core values. If I had been born two years earlier (making me Gen X), would I be less lazy, unfocused or entitled? Or is that because I’m a Libra? “Because Libra takes so long to make decisions, it can be perceived as laziness, or absent-mindedness.” Darn, two weeks earlier, and I would have been a cool, calm and confident Virgo.
Your birthday does not define you as a person. Stereotypes of any kind are dangerous and rarely appreciated by those being stereotyped. If I were writing an article or teaching a session called “Planning Events for [insert race or religion here] People,” my career would be shorter than a millennial’s attention span. (Zing!)
I recently attended a panel discussion on event technology. The moderator was great; the panel was great; but one thing irked me. Each time they moved to a different topic, a slide with a description, pros and cons weree displayed. Under the “Pro” column, every single app, website or gadget shown was “millennial friendly.” To my knowledge, none of these technologies uses high-frequency sounds that only young ears can hear.
Hopefully, what follows is a bigger takeaway: Please don’t alienate the fastest-growing age segment at your events by talking about us as if we weren’t in the room.
Turning the corner
I’m not saying that common millennial stereotypes are unfounded. Instead, I believe that all of society is trending toward the qualities that have come to define millennials. As with most trends, it’s first adopted by youth. The next thing you know, you’re the only one wearing cargo pants. It’s time to take notice.
Focus on some of the more positive stereotypes. Millennials are multi-taskers, connected and tech-savvy. We’ve grown up in the age of the Internet. We want instant gratification/recognition, collaboration with peers, flexibility (work/life balance) and clear expectations. Let’s be honest. Those all sound like pretty nice things regardless of your age group, and technology is the way to achieve them.
Let technology bring us together
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? What? Either, as long as it is presented clearly, concisely and instantly before you move to another task? Ahh … now you’re catching on.
The bad news is that technology is ever-changing, and change is terrifying. From the latest MPI Meetings Outlook: “Disruption caused by technological innovation was cited as a category of concern by 31 percent of respondents.” Planners and suppliers now not only have to worry about all the logistics of the meeting, they have to evaluate, learn and teach others to use new apps, AV requirements, Wi-Fi, etc., etc.
The good news: A primary goal of any new technology is ease of use. Likewise, if ease of use is the No. 1 priority during your evaluation, it’ll make teaching and learning that much easier. When evaluating a conference app, registration package or lead retrieval system (to name a few), a good salesperson can make anything seem easy to use while steering you through a 30-minute demo.
Planning events for the millennial influence
Ideally, I’d wrap this up with some insightful tips on how to bridge the generational gap at events using technology, but that’s the cumulative goal of all of my posts. It’s important to start with the basics: a reliable Wi-Fi connection, mobile app and a responsive event website. Once that’s covered, apply technology to the meeting room and use hybrid meetings to include those who aren’t physically present.
If you keep your ear to the ground for new technology, you can make the final leap yourself. Revolutionary apps like Periscope, Uber and Airbnb always make a splash in the real world before trickling into events. These have already been vetted and refined by the market. They won’t make it if they’re not easy to use. All it takes is a little ingenuity to apply to your next meeting.
Oh, yeah, millennials have one more quality. As evident by the previous paragraphs, we’re shameless self-promoters.
What’s your reaction to Layton Rasco’s post? Good news, bad news or something in-between? Please use the comment section below to keep the conversation going. Plan well and prosper, friends.