Patricia Coleman is Director, mid-Atlantic sales, SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals, a provider of computer, AV and technology rentals and services headquartered in Hauppauge, NY, with 21 branches nationwide. www.smartsourcerentals.com
Professional meeting planners have a new mission. It is to attract and engage millennials who now represent the largest generation in the U.S. work force. According to data from the Pew Research Center, one in three American workers is a millennial, defined as being between the ages of 18 to 34 in 2015. This large group also is defined by several distinct characteristics, which must be accommodated by meeting planners seeking their attendance, participation and positive event reviews. At the core of achieving this goal is the ability for meeting planners to leverage interactive technologies, which says to millennials — “We get you.” It starts with understanding more about millennials and the integration of technology in their day-to-day living.
Millennials are the first generation born into the digital age. For these digital natives, the Internet, social media, mobile technology and apps always have been a part of their lives. On any given day, they use multiple devices. They have an ease with digital technology and a reliance on it like no other generation before them. Their communications, socializing and activism are heavily reliant on technology. They shop, bank and track their fitness levels using digital technology. Millennials expect rapid responses and, some might say instant gratification, which technology helps facilitate. Furthermore, research from the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Study found that millennials don’t hesitate to voice their opinions quickly and broadcast them across far-reaching online and social media platforms. There, millennials’ comments are magnified and multiplied as large audiences, comprised of many peers, too, are engaged and likely to respond.
“One of the best technologies to leverage for delivering what is being dubbed the ‘Apple’ experience for its heightened customer focus are video wall displays.”
Millennials’ complete alignment with technology also has fueled their eco-friendly sensitivities. They are ardent supporters of paper-free communications, seeing little reason to communicate with paper when technology can be used. They are much more likely to respond to online, email and mobile marketing than they are to mailings and/or printed collateral materials. Equally important, they favor organizations that adopt practices that reduce carbon footprints and protect the environment. Based on the 2015 Deloitte Millennial survey, millennials look to the business community to facilitate innovation and progress.
Here’s how to capture the attention and engagement of millennials:
Within the context of a large-scale event or meeting, planners have many opportunities and ways in which to demonstrate they are tech-savvy. Starting with registration, banish manual, labor-intensive and time-consuming badge creation processes. Instead, embrace new registration and check-in software that enables coded badges to be produced and printed quickly and easily. Meeting attendees simply go to the registration kiosk, click on a search bar, enter their data (i.e., email address, name, title, etc.), select and confirm the accuracy of their information record and then print their badge. In addition to providing convenience for their meeting attendees, meeting planners also gain the value-added benefit of being able to apply the information captured through the registration process for audience segmentation and tracking purposes — market intelligence that can be used in planning future events.
Another technology that offers efficient information capture and delivery is a digital document library. It facilitates paperless communication and interactivity, both of which are highly valued by millennials. These turnkey, digital kiosks enable meeting planners to provide and manage timely content, capture and store information about their event attendees, and deliver a high-level, engaging 21st century event experience. They can be used with large LCD touch screens, tablets, mobile devices or interactive kiosks, digital document libraries, and eliminate the time, labor and costs associated with printing and shipping boxes of collateral materials.
One of the best technologies to leverage for delivering what is being dubbed the “Apple” experience for its heightened customer focus are video wall displays. They can be customized to project specific corporate or organizational brands, strategic marketing messages, event agendas, speaker biographies, etc. and unique infotainment (i.e., videos, commercials, documentaries, training films, music, etc.). Video wall displays create the “wow” factor that fully engages millennials.
Interactive audio response systems allow planners to poll event attendees for real-time feedback on an event and its various components, from breakout sessions and keynote speakers, to luncheons and social/recreational activities. Drawing on this feedback, meeting planners gain a finger on the pulse of their event and, based on the responses they receive, can make adjustments in their event to further create a positive, best-in-class experience.
Well-placed charging station kiosks not only enable millennials to stay connected, they also give planners another platform for conveying important information to a captive audience waiting for their mobile device to charge. These charging stations can be used to convey the schedule of events, reinforce key mission and vision statements, introduce products or services, and highlight timely news developments and/or organizational achievements. Equipped with interactive apps, they are another way to give millennials a voice in the event.
Finally, one technology that should never be overlooked is that of a well-designed Wi-Fi solution. Without it, even the best technologies will suffer in performance, and meeting attendees will become frustrated. It is incumbent that meeting planners consider a venue’s Wi-Fi bandwidth to make certain it will be sufficient in accommodating the demands of the smartphones, iPads and other mobile devices used by the projected number of event attendees. It may be necessary to have a Wi-Fi array specifically designed and supported by an onsite technician during the course of the event.
Millennials are driven by experiences. They crave experiences that engage and surprise them. Leading-edge, interactive technologies can do that. Meeting planners can create an unexpectedly dynamic event by leveraging the technologies’ many performance features to deliver an event that not only captures the millennials’ attention, but has them sharing their positive experiences with others. What better way to create positive buzz about an event and set the stage for future events. Keep in mind, too, that millennials rely on their participation in various activities and events as a way to build a sense of community. In fact, Eventbrite’s nationwide research of millennials conducted by Harris found that 69 percent of millennials believe that attending events helps them to feel more connected to other people, their community (be that a company, association or group) and the world at large. For meeting planners, their role in instilling a greater sense of community in their event participants may well be their greatest contribution to an organization’s success. AC&F