Think Left, Right, Low & High: Think Differently About Attracting Gen X & Y To Your Next Event

CEIR Report Power Of Exhibitions In 21st Century Review Part II Read part I.

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! Dr. Seuss

Theodore Gisele, aka Dr. Seuss, had a great idea about thinking. Think differently.

Now apply Dr. Seuss’ thinking strategy to the next event or exhibition that you’re planning.

Think about it from many angles, from top to bottom, to inside out, to before and after, to what’s it all about. Think about who’s attending, who’s not and why. Think about how to do it differently and not repeat what you’ve done on the fly. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.

If more exhibition and event organizers would stop and think before planning their next event, they might come up with more “thinks…if only they try.” Unfortunately, many organizers continue to plan their events the same way they’ve always done it. They expect that the old dog method will lead to new, improved results.

CEIR‘s recent report, Power of Exhibitions In the 21st Century: Identify, Discover and Embrace Change from the Point Of View of Young Professionals (those under the age of 40), shows that exhibitions and event organizers can’t continue to “wash, rinse and repeat” and expect the same results. It’s time for event organizers to wash the old strategy right out of their hair and think differently in their planning process, especially if they want to attract Gen X and Y.

Here are six more takeaways from the report that organizers, exhibitors and event professionals can use for improving the planning and executing of future exhibitions and events.

1. Event Web 2.0-enabled sites are a necessity, not a luxury.
Websites and conference eCommunities are the gateways to an organization and its events. 73% of young professional respondents interviewed created a must-see list of exhibitors before attending the event. Unfortunately, most ranked current event Websites poorly as disorganized, outdated, incomplete and not user friendly.

The online event eCommunity and Website with show floor plans and exhibit descriptions is a must. Having this available before and after the show as well as via mobile devices is a no brainer. Similarly, organizers must give more attention and investment to the event Website by making it more user-friendly, robust, vibrant and updated regularly.

2. Stop the selling madness!
Gen X respondents who attended an exhibition feel there are too many sellers and not enough buyers. They also feel that there is too much pressure from sales people who staff the booths.

Younger generations do not appreciate the hard sell. Exhibitors should endeavor to explain to younger attendees what they are offering and what they are capable of without pushing a sale. Tricking them into scanning a badge to enter a drawing is not a best practice for gaining trust. They want transparency.

3. Age discrimination will cost you! Let no one despise their youth.
Many young professionals expressed age discrimination, ignored by show exhibitors because of their age. This mistake can cost an exhibitor future sales. While these individuals may not have the final purchasing decision for their employers, two-thirds do have the power to make recommendations and influence the buying decision.

Event organizers can work with exhibitors to help them understand that young professionals heavily influence the purchasing decisions of their employers. Organizers can also help exhibitors learn new sales approaches like consultative and relationship sales.

4. Interactivity and engagement are imperative.
Young professionals have a strong preference for interactive exhibits versus static exhibits. They also want interactive educational sessions where they can discuss content with each other versus monologue, lecture-style presentations.

Organizers should recommend that exhibitors consider hands-on, interactive elements to attract younger professionals. Exhibits that combine high-tech with high-touch and use virtual gaming components will be successful. Session presenters and facilitators that use hands-on, activity based efforts that allow attendees to work together collaboratively and discuss issues are also important.

5. Content is king and human interaction is queen.
38% of respondents considered the educational sessions the most important component of the exhibition, over the exhibition, social events and networking. Nearly nine in ten that attended a recent exhibition participated in an education session. The content of the session was the most influential element while the session title and speaker had the most influence on Millennials. 35% said they go for the networking. Both Gen X and Y stressed that they want to interact and learn from each other and industry veterans.

Organizers must spend as much time on planning the event program as they do on the logistics. They should secure industry veterans that can give short presentations and facilitate discussions. Providing relevant, exclusive content with appealing session titles and descriptions that accurately reflect the presentation is also important.

6. Yours, mine and ours!
Opportunities must be created that permit attendees to contribute their own ideas and suggestions to the exhibition and event. Creating show floor social spaces and lounges with power ports will draw and retain traffic of young professionals. Both of these points gives attendees the feeling the show is as much theirs as it is the exhibitors. Both groups also want wireless access on the show floor and throughout the event.

Organizers should crowdsource event ideas, suggestions and education topics. They should also ask facilities to provide free wireless on show floors and venue for attendees. They should include wireless request in future RFPs. Are facilities better off charging for this or helping their clients satisfy long-term attendance challenges?

Did any of these points surprise you? What resonates with you about your attendees? What changes will you make to your next event to attract and retain young professionals?

CEIR’s Power of Exhibitions In the 21st Century Part 1 41 page report offers a wealth of insight on what Gen X and Gen Y want.

ICEEM (The International Center for Exhibitor and Event Marketing) is hosting a soldout webinar on Wednesday February 17 entitled “Do Young Professionals Think Your Event Sucks?” IAEE and CEIR are providing an archived recording of this Webinar to members and nonmembers for a nominal fee.

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  1. Jeff, what a great post. As a Millennial, I can tell you this is right on point.

    While walking the tradeshow floor with a colleague a year ago, an exhibitor commented how nice it was that I was attending the show with my dad. There is nothing more frustrating and deflating than age discrimination..and no easier way to segment off an entire group of potential buyers.

    I highly recommend mentor programs within organizations, and on the conference level, holding a generation x/y event. The above mentioned points will certainly help attract young professionals, and forming a strong connection among the young professionals is invaluable for an organization’s future.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      ‘@Ashley thanks so much for the comment and stopping by. Also, I apologize for acknowledging your contribution so late. You have some good points to add. I really like the idea of mentor programs too.

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