It seems that every major events industry conference in world at the moment talks about Millennials in some capacity. Chirpy speakers with books to sell wax lyrical about ‘future leaders’ and their insatiable need for instant gratification and new ways of thinking.
Truthfully, I find this nonsensical. Being born in 1984 I am, by way of technicality, a Millennial, and am therefore well placed to comment on such matters. This idea that Millennials will ‘revolutionise the way we run events’ I find incredibly difficult to stomach.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a twenty-something Clapham resident in a yellow cardigan and thick frame glasses, or a 50-year-old father of three in a suit (minus the tie), your events will be exactly the same so long as you do the correct market research.
This is what drives me mad (this and many other things): there are indeed different philosophies between those born in 1968 and those born in 1988, but if the job is done correctly, an event organiser’s age matters not one iota.
It’s important to remember that people’s needs are forever changing; this is nothing new. But this is on a small level. A constant is that every delegate of every age expects good service and good content. Get this right, and you’re pretty much there.
As an events manager you should know your audience. There’s little point giving everyone a tablet and a fancy app if all the delegates are in their eighties, and nor would a bunch of students be interested in a four-hour keynote about how milk was delivered by horse and cart until 1957.
Beyond the venue selection and the logistics and the AV and the Tube strikes, there are three key areas on which to focus to ensure your event will go down a treat with a smorgasbord of age groups:
The first thing to do is set your event goals. What is the point of the conference; what is the message you want to convey; what do you want as a result?
For the love of God, don’t bring in the first speaker you find. Compare your goals with the speaker’s reputation: do they match? Meet the speaker in person, too. They may be top of their game, but they may also be a frightful dullard. If you survive the meeting without dozing off, then that’s a good start. If they leave you feeling inspired, then sign them up.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of feedback. Good feedback is useless, so you need plenty of negative feedback to really sink your teeth into. However, this surely has to be the hardest thing to do. At the immediate end of an event, delegates will be keen to leave, so there’s little point pestering everyone – unless they are bribed with the chance of a two-week stay in Mustique or a new Ford Mustang (the V8, obviously). People will also feel compelled to be polite to your face. They are not to be trusted. If you’re going to do it face-to-face, seek out the most unpleasant person in the room and ask them to be brutally honest.
Sending an email out after the event can be a tricky game, and if this is your preferred approach, then you have to make it quick and easy and, above all else, accept that not everyone will bother at all.
Keep it to five questions, and rather than ask people to rate things on a scale of 1 to 10, use words like ‘poor’, ‘average’ and ‘good’. Otherwise, if you’re like me, it will be a blizzard of 5s and 6s. I attended a conference recently which bribed me with access to the PowerPoint slides in exchange for my feedback – and they got it.
Ask if they liked the speakers; ask if they were bored at any point; ask for a few comments at the end.
I’m no marketing expert – as you can clearly tell – but there is a lot to be said for speaking to someone who specialises in getting meaningful feedback. It can be a wise investment in the long run.
So there we are, then. It doesn’t matter which generation you’re from, do the right research and your event will be a success*.