Published December 02, 2016
Twenty- and 30-somethings won’t stand for sessions where talking heads deliver little substance. And because millennials are more likely than other generations to combine conference attendance with personal vacation time, they like to meet in places they’ll want to tell their friends about.
Cara Silletto, a millennial, has made her generation the focus of her business, Crescendo Strategies. Her company helps businesses better understand millennial employees to improve performance and avoid unnecessary turnover.
Here are her tips for planning educational content and choosing a meeting destination with millennials in mind. For her recommendations on social media, technology and meeting atmosphere, read last month’s column here.
Vet your speakers carefully.
Sadly, few speakers have the two qualities attendees hope for in a presenter: a dynamic speaking style and useful, usable information. “That is why people sit in the back,” said Silletto. “They want to be able to escape.”
Technology makes it easy to assess a speaker’s abilities beforehand. “With cellphone videos so accessible, no one has an excuse to not have a video,” said Silletto. “Even a two- to three-minute video will let you quickly know whether the person is articulate.”
Speakers should also provide their session’s learning objective. “What will people walk out with?” said Silletto. “It should never be, for example, information about the new Medicaid changes. Instead, it should be, ‘Here are the changes, and this is the action that you need to take on them.’”
Keep sessions short and interactive.
Silletto is a speaker herself, and although she loves having a 90-minute time slot, she knows that is not what the crowd wants. “Make your sessions shorter and faster. Get to the point,” she said. She recommends sessions of an hour or less that include an interactive element. “They want you to get to the point; nobody has time for the fluff, and they don’t want a sales pitch.”
To spice things up, vary the format.
Using the same format for every educational session spells dull. Have some traditional-style sessions that include an icebreaker, some 18-minute TED Talks-style sessions and some sessions that allow the crowd to be the experts through panels, roundtables or other interactive formats.
“At a recent conference I attended, one session was called Table Topics,” said Silletto. “Each table had a leader who was an expert on the topic, and anyone interested in the topic could sit and talk about it for 30 minutes.” Attendees “learned from each other,” she said. “A lot of people in the crowd have as much information as the speaker.”
Millennials want to see more than the hotel.
Keep in mind that millennials are more likely than other attendees to blend personal and professional. “If your conference is a national one, where you can choose any city, you want to be pick a place that people would like to go on vacation,” Silletto said. If the destination is well known, like New York or Las Vegas, you won’t have to do much promotion. But if your meeting is being held in a lesser-known, second-tier city, you’ll want to play up its attractions with videos, photos and lists of top-10 sites.
“When they arrive in the city, make sure you have gotten the CVB to give you brochures, city guides, maps, and make sure you put links or info about the city and its restaurants, museums and other attractions on the conference app,” Silletto said. “The more fun people have, the more likely they are to come back next time.”
It’s also a good idea to incorporate local attractions, tastes and sounds into the conference, whether through complimentary or discounted tickets for a museum, a networking event at a baseball game or a night out at local restaurants. “It’s a way to make new friends, see the city and build camaraderie,” Silletto said.
For a free copy of Silletto’s guide, “The Millennial Mindset,” visit www.crescendostrategies.com.