Your annual meetings are probably no longer dominated by well-coiffed, suit and tie, Mercedes-driving, work-centric, loyal 40 to 60-year-olds. Today, you may well find an influx of latte-sipping, flip-flop wearing, multi-tasking, iPad-toting 21 to 39-year-olds.
While each generation, from Traditionalist to Millennials, has specific traits and communication characteristics, they also have some commonalities, especially when it comes to your conference planning.
Here are eight myths about multigenerational meetings that need to be busted.
Myth 1: Baby Boomers learn better with lecture presentations than Millennials.
Fact: Today’s neuroscience has proven that all adults, regardless of their age, learn better with active engagement and participation than passive listening. Many of today’s attendees, regardless of age, will no longer tolerate long, irrelevant monologues by presenters or panelists.
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Myth 2: Traditionalist and Baby Boomers have different learning styles than Gen X and Y.
Fact: Adults aged 21 to 101 have more learning commonalities than differences. The 1980s and early ’90s learning styles theories, such as brain hemisphericity and VAK strategies, have been proven to be inaccurate and not based on science.
Myth 3: Baby Boomers expect more content from your meeting than Gen X or Y.
Fact: All adults coming to your meeting are problem-centric, not content-centric. Adults come to your meeting with a set of problems that they need solved immediately. They don’t want to learn content for “just-in-case learning.”
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Myth 4: Gen X and Gen Y are the only ones using their smartphones during the meeting.
Fact: 82 percent of American adults own a smartphone and 72 percent send and receive texts (Pew Internet and American Life Project, September 2010). The majority of your attendees use their mobile devices to do business and connect with their families. It is more about work than social networking.
Myth 5: E-mail and your website are the best ways to market and communicate meeting and conference information to all generations.
Fact: An integrated marketing strategy with direct mail, e-mail, text, social networking outposts, a website and short video clips is best. Your conference website is not enough. Your networked attendees, those actively using social platforms, expect to find information about your event in the social networks they use as well.
Myth 6: Only Gen Y attendees are using social networks, so there’s no need to use them to promote events if your attendees are older.
Fact: Nearly 50 percent of users aged 50 and older use social networks (Pew Internet and American Life Project, August 2010). Social networking crosses all ages, so ignore those platforms at your peril.
Myth 7: Baby Boomers expect meat and potato-type meals and Gen Yers want healthier options.
Fact: All generations want healthier food choices for their meals and breaks. Millennials are not the only ones driving this trend.
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Myth 8: The MTV, video game and Internet generations (Gens X and Y) need fast presentations and lots of stimulating visuals, video clips and eye-candy.
Fact: Visuals trump all other senses when it comes to adult learning. All adults, regardless of their age need interesting and exciting visuals to help learn and retain information. You should incorporate as many stimulating types of visuals as possible.
What other multigenerational myths would you add to this list?
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