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The Ever-Evolving Dilemma: Who Really IS Your Audience?

If you’re like me, just when I’ve gotten the order of the named generations right [along with understanding their unique traits and characteristics], another generation comes along with even more chatter about a “generational subset” that sits on the cusp of one gen and another. Confusion kicks back in.

For anyone who hosts, plans or attends corporate meetings and events, what does all this generational stuff mean? …

Do you REALLY know who your audience is …?

It’s probably not a stretch to assume most of us already had a hunch, especially longer-tenured folks, that the sets of eyes staring back at you while you’re onstage presenting [or looking back at you on that Zoom-fueled Hollywood Squares-looking laptop screen of yours] seem younger and younger every day … because they are.

A March Forbes article noted that:

Five generations are actively in the workforce. The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation-X, Millennials and Generation-Z bring different mindsets and expectations to the office.

“It’s easy to slap a stereotype label on each cohort. The eye-rolling, cliche tropes are that Boomers are set in their ways and afraid of new technologies; Gen-X couldn’t care less about what people think about them; Millennials want a trophy for everything they do and Gen-Zers, the largest generational demographic in the United States at more than 90 million strong, aspire to be TikTok influencers.

Broad brush-stroking is never a good thing but it is true that each generation has its own way of learning and engaging. The truly successful meeting is one that resonates with each of its attendees, whether they lean younger or older. That’s not easy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the workplace percentage by generation breaks down like this:

  • Silent Generation [born pre-1946]        2%
  • Boomers [1946-1964]                            25%
  • Gen-X [1965-1979]                                 33%
  • Millennials [1980-1994]                        35%
  • Gen-Z [1995-2012]                                 5%

So that means that Gen-Xers and Millennials combined make up more than 2/3 of your audience [68%], and range in age from 29-57, skewing slightly towards the younger end of the spectrum.

So, who are you really, really speaking to? Let’s look closer …

Millennials are your “sweet spot”.

Millennials are currently the most prevalent and most powerful generation around the world and make up the largest segment of the U.S. workforce. In a few short years, they will overwhelmingly dominate the workforce.

Still not convinced? Consider:

  • 66% of Millennials are employed full-time.
  • 35% of the U.S. workforce are Millennials.
  • Millennials will represent 75% of the global workforce within five years.

It’s safe to assume these broader workforce numbers are reflective of your audience make-up, too. So, what exactly do Millennials expect from a corporate meeting or event? Let’s look even closer …

Experiences, experiences, experiences …

Whereas Boomers are known for their nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic and being averse to rockin’ any workplace boats, and Gen-Xers for their seeming indifference about others’ opinions, Millennials are not either one. Since they now take up the greatest number of seats in your meeting space [whether in a Grand Ballroom, a restored, 200-year-old mill, or a mountain slope somewhere, it’s make-or-break important to understand who they are, how they think and what they expect from a meeting or event … whether you like it or not, BTW.

  • Millennials value networking more than anything else when they participate in a F2F meeting or event.
  • They value meeting experiences over material goods.
  • They are eager to share those experiences with others by word-of-mouth, or more likely social media [including photos].
  • They are the most technologically savvy portion of your audience.
  • As the average screen time per day increases, Millennials have discovered the greater depth of F2F meetings and value them like never before.
  • They are 62% more likely to want to travel than the previous generation [Gen-X].
  • They don’t hope, they expect a F2F meeting or event to be hitched to a purpose.

Location, location, location … Purpose, purpose, purpose.

These days, Millennial attendees say a meeting/event destination is as important as the biz content you present, and how and where you present it. And, oh, there’s a purpose threaded through it all, right?

Essentially, they’re saying no meeting or event is considered top-tier without a destination that promotes and reinforces a purpose, whether it’s somehow incorporating the latest social/cultural trend[s] of the event location, or tied to making the local community a better place.

Millennials are also more likely to tack on a little personal time either before and/or after the actual event, or expect personal time to be built into the meeting agenda. This trend towards “bleisure” is gaining steam and being noted more and more in post-program surveys.

Bottom line: Millennials believe not only in the importance of traveling to business programs but the importance of feeling as if they’re on vacay, too. That desire drives the increasing demand for more exciting, appealing and unique destinations and agendas chock-a-block with authentic, local experiences in the host city.

Just when you thought you had it all figured out …

Now that you know it’s critically important to connect with Millennials, don’t get too comfortable because there’s an emerging subset that sits on the cusp of Millennials and Gen-Zers called “Zillenials” and they have their own unique likes, dislikes and expectations.

Also called “Zennials”, “Snapchat Generation” or “MinionZ”, this  micro-generation born 1992-1998 has been meaningfully influenced by both Millennials and Gen-Zers. They’re comfortable with technology and social media though they admit each is a blessing and a curse at once. They expect a healthy dose of both … but not without an equally heavy dose of interpersonal engagement.

The word “moderation” comes to mind when I consider the proper balance of tech, social media and good ol’ fashioned human-to-human engagement. Zillennials are also proving to be especially creative, valuing hands-on experiences, and are more likely to self-identify as a minority than previous generations. They value diversity and independence.

Final Thoughts

Head spinning yet …?

At dynami, we’re seeing more and more companies evolve in their thinking and moving away from the traditional meeting or event in favor of delivering highly engaging F2F programs that serve up a memorable experience [great destination, local influence, tech/social media involvement, personal time an a purpose] while still delivering messaging critical to your company’s success. Other companies may need to reassess and dip a toe in the water in a “New World way” or they may see lower ROI on their event spend.

Finding the right meeting/event solution can be a formidable challenge but that doesn’t change the need to put aside your own personal preferences, likes and dislikes, and accurately identify the needs and expectations of your attendees. So many meeting models of the past are as antiquated as cassette tapes and fax machines. Companies must craft a program heavily weighted towards meaningful experiences that resonate with all attendees, but especially Millennials.

As people who host, plan or attend corporate meetings and events, it all starts with accepting the reality that times have changed. Yes, your audience really is getting younger and younger. More than ever, we need to be highly creative in our messaging, program planning and design, and execution.

May we offer you a complimentary meeting tune-up?


Kenneth Jones