Beyond Craft Beer and Quinoa – Millennials also Crave Content, Technology and Networking!
This is your final notification that you have a critical update to install in your trade show – and it comes with emoji’s, environmental responsibility and a lot of student debt. So listen up Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, your trade shows and events need to embrace Millennials, if you want them to stay relevant!
As a Millennial myself, I can tell you first hand, we are unique and flexible thinkers who like to challenge the status quo. Currently there are more than 50 million Millennials in the workforce with more on the way. Our generation is bringing a new way of thinking that embraces technology, loves social media and enjoys interacting with others. So how can you make sure your trade show or corporate event is ready to meet the demands of Millennials? Problem solved! I put together a list of the Top 5 Tips for Engaging Millennials at trade shows and events.
1. We <3 Technology!
The first and most important step is to embrace and showcase the technology at your show. Most Millennials have had a cell phone in their hand since birth, so it’s only natural that is where we are accessing most information; news, communicating and work are done through a personal mobile device. Make your information easy to find – scrap the old paper program and cardboard signage for a mobile app and digital signage. There is no need for all that expensive print collateral when it can all be accessed digitally for a fraction of the cost! It’s also easier for show planners to make updates on the fly, which you can’t do with printed material. Digital signage can be used for directions, schedule updates and much more.
2. We Need a Charge
Since Millennials are addicted to their mobile devices, it’s no wonder phone batteries are always dying. Help address this problem by placing a charging station on the main floor of your show, rather than having everyone heading for the nearest outlet and sitting on the floor. Charging stations have become a lifesaver for attendees who need to charge their devices. They can also be an additional revenue stream for show planners. Many have used these stations as sponsorship opportunities because of their popularity and high rate of visibility.
3. We’re ADD, Record and Share Your Content!
Unfortunately, having a short attention span is one of the conditions of growing up as a Millennial. If I find something interesting, I will re-read or re-watch to fully understand, but I want to do it on-demand. Do you think the same is happening at your sessions? Probably. A lot of shows are taking advantage of their great speakers and using the content that they supply for post-show engagement. The sessions are recorded to make them available on-demand, but make sure your content is also easy to find post show. Make it available on your mobile app, website and on your YouTube channel. Also consider the live video feed capabilities that social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter have available.
4. Follow the Crowd, Join Us on Social Media
Social Media was created while most Millennials were young; we grew up connected to the Internet! There has always been a social platform for us to share ideas and connect with others so it’s second nature. At your show, use social media to engage, not only Millennials, but your entire audience for that matter. Shows are using their event app as well as digital signage to display social media feeds. Whether you are displaying text or images, digital signage can be positioned in your main hallways to grab the attention of attendees passing by.
Selecting the right social media platform for your show takes time to decide. My suggestion is to walk before you run; start with a single platform such as Twitter. This will allow you to use a show hashtag, which creates a discussion thread for everyone to comment and share their ideas. Once you have a feel for your audience you can expand to other platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
5. We Like to Work a Room
Believe it or not, we do look up from our phones to actually talk to face-to-face! Lastly, Millennials love to network in search of advice and to discuss other interests. A lot are interested in other aspects of life and are not focused solely on work. Your show should have opportunities for Millennials to chat with other attendees both young and not-so-young. Throughout the show, we would love to see as many opportunities to connect to begin developing those relationships. Most shows have networking opportunities at night, but what about those pockets of time during the day? Quick meet ups during the day allow people to discuss sessions, or maybe their favourite activity outside of work.
This past winter at IAEE’s Expo Expo they created special opportunities for young professionals to meet up during the day. On the schedule, they offered fifteen minute gatherings for young professionals. It was a great opportunity to quickly meet new people or even catch up with someone you’ve already met.
Overall, it’s important for Millennials to find new connections. Not only because it’s part of advancing our career, but because since it is so early in our careers, these connections can last a long time. In most situations, networking starts with a professional interest, but we are not afraid to form a personal relationship with other professionals, especially on social media.
This generation is the future of your show. Chances are the other half of your audience have children or family members who fall into this category, and they would be welcome changes for them as well. As Millennials grow more experienced, they will be providing the direction for the next generation. But for now, get to know them and you will enjoy the ride!
By Jonathan Sedlak