Cara Silletto understands millennials better than many of us. For one, she is part of that generation, which spans those born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s. And through her company, Crescendo Strategies, she helps companies cut down on needless turnover by teaching them about the millennial mindset.
Interestingly, the things that help organizations retain millennial employees also help planners attract and retain millennial meeting-goers. And, said Silletto, the things millennials demand — access to technology, connections through social media, cool meeting venues, valuable information delivered succinctly — appeal to meeting attendees in general.
“Everybody wants this stuff, but millennials won’t come back if they don’t get it,” Silletto said. ”Other attendees will come back because they are in a routine. But young people are going to say, ‘No, I will find a better conference.’ Millennials are less tolerant of the boring factor.”
Silletto has many tips for attracting and retaining millennial meeting-goers, too many for one column. So this month, we’ll talk about technology, social media and “cool” factors. Next month, we’ll tackle choosing meeting destinations and developing educational programming.
Go ahead and set up those charging stations, Silletto said, but don’t stop there. Take a hard look at your meeting rooms, too.
“Instead of filling in the room from the back like you do at church,” she said, “attendees now fill in from the sides because everybody is looking for a plug.” If outlets aren’t adequate, millennials who are “using their mobile apps and taking notes on their tablets are going to run out of juice before the end of the day,” Silletto said. Work with the venue to add power strips or make adjustments to the room layout to provide easier access to outlets. Silletto also suggests giving away external chargers as door prizes or speaker gifts.
Conferences should also have a mobile app. “There are so many apps available now at a reasonable cost that every conference should have one,” said Silletto. In addition to all conference materials, make sure the mobile site includes an attendee list that allows meeting-goers to upload their photos and other information so they can more easily connect with their peers.
Millennials connect through social media, so give your conference a catchy hashtag and promote it on everything from signage and PowerPoint slides to printed materials and promotional items. “Using social media extends the conversation,” Silletto said. Urge attendees to use the hashtag to share favorite quotes or takeaways from sessions. Invite them to post photos, and then have a photo contest. Set up a fun, “social media worthy” photo backdrop so attendees can take group photos and share them. Every conference should also have a Facebook event page that attendees can share with others. Have some contests there, too — “like the 100th person to share the event gets a free admission,” she said.
Remember, said Silletto, “millennials tend to share information with friends more often; they share and post what they are doing.”
Connections made through social media can bring attendees back to your meeting. Silletto soon will return to a conference in Washington, D.C. At last year’s conference, she and a half dozen others got together through social media and spent an evening “monument hopping.” They stay connected through social media and are planning to get together again at this year’s conference. “Now, we are best buds in this one space,” she said.
A Cool Vibe
From upbeat music to fun themes, give your event a cool vibe, Silletto said. “The music sets the tone, and there is no excuse not to have it with Pandora and inexpensive external speakers,” she said. “And stop having those boring announcements — they kill the mood.” A lively script and a peppy voice, recorded or live, can make those standard messages — sit down, turn your phone off, the next session is starting — fun and entertaining.
And don’t introduce speakers by droning on about their past jobs and awards. Make speaker introductions short, snappy and somewhat surprising or enlightening. “Have the speaker tell you something personal and crazy,” she said, then build that into the introduction. Pick a fun theme and carry it forward in every element of the conference, from signage and name tags to banquet decor and drinks.
To download Silletto’s free guide, “The Millennial Mindset,” visit www.crescendostrategies.com.