Millennials present fresh challenge to meetings industry

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By 2025, millennials will account for as much as three-quarters of the global workforce, states a report by EY. But while this is a little way off, other research suggests they are already ushering changes in the MICE sector with more expected to come.

One study, the IACC Meeting Rooms of the Future, surveyed 180 event planners across four continents to glean insights as to the needs of delegates. It identified the “demands of incoming generations” as one factor prompting the meetings industry to “evolve and expand at a rapid pace”.

This presents some unique challenges both for venues and for those that organize and oversee events.

Shifting expectations

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“Delegates today are looking for high impact memorable experiences,” the IACC study found, with 80 percent of interviewees agreeing that their role now involves more experience creation than two to five years ago – something unlikely to alter.

This includes things such as the use of the latest technology, shorter sessions and provision for more interaction and creativity.

An experience-centric approach certainly has its benefits. For those that host events, there is greater opportunity to engage, educate and even sell to their audience. Delegates, on the other hand, can enjoy more personalization, active participation and greater gains from their attendance.

However, for planners it means additional responsibilities to juggle, more complex logistics to implement and ultimately, a larger workload to manage. So much so, that IACC reports 70 percent now outsource off-site activities and to a lesser extent, other elements like production and participant registration.

SEE ALSO: Marriott’s Meetings Imagined brings Pinterest-worthy quality to events

Generational differences

Equally difficult is the task planners’ face in ensuring meetings and events remain useful and relevant when attendees span different generations.

“Designing an association meeting today requires honoring the older participants who continue to find value in the current, albeit dated, model while convincing younger participants that the meeting offers something of value,” said Dana Saal, principal of Saal Meeting Consulting (quoted by Skift).

The difference between generations is particularly striking when considering networking preferences. According to Skift’s What Millennials Want In Meetings Report, while older delegates are happy to network at cocktail receptions and other traditional mixer style sessions, millennials find them “unnatural.”

However, niche-based Special Interest Groups (SIGs) where “millennials can let their guard down and network in a more relaxed ambiance,” are a welcome alternative, as too are apps like MeetingMatch, the report concluded.

Technology conflicts

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Technology is no longer just nice to have; it is a necessity according to the latest Eventbrite Event Industry Report. Of the 800 event professionals it surveyed, a third expected new technology to have the biggest impact on events in 2017, making it the second largest industry trend.

Social media related technology was the most popular, with 87 percent of respondents planning to use it at events this year, an increase of 81 percent on figures from 12 months previous. While 31 percent of those surveyed would definitely use mobile event apps.

Similarly, the IACC study found that over half the meeting planners it questioned would not consider a venue unless it had “the guaranteed internet capacity to support the needs of their event.”

SEE ALSO: Cog in the machine: The tools and tech driving the meetings industry

But such reliance creates new challenges for organizers. For instance, IACC highlights how easy it is for a venue’s WiFi network to slow if delegates are using gamification apps or uploading lots of data at the same time.

Consequently, additional protocols to assess the suitability of systems and to avoid overburdening them, are now a priority, when in the past they were perhaps less so.

Event planners may also have to consider how to keep participants focused during events, as an article by Ungerboeck.com suggests heavy tech use can shorten attention span – a problem that exists despite 84 percent of millennials showing a preference for in-person meetings.