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Generational Talent

Rachel Crick recently spoke with Taylor Johnson, the event manager at Wichita Marriott in Wichita, Kansas, on the challenges and opportunities of Gen Z professionals in the meetings and event industry.

Johnson is currently earning her bachelor’s degree in mass communication and media studies from the University of Kansas. She previously served as an event coordinator at WSU Tech. She has experience planning corporate meetings and events, as well as national conventions and business meetings.

Q: Does Gen Z face any specific challenges when it comes to being taken seriously in the event planning industry?

A: One disadvantage is people want event planners with a lot of experience, and there is a certain level of success that comes down to experience. It was definitely a process of having to earn respect, whereas for older people it’s just given. I had to stand my ground and show people what I could do. Our generation also has an empathetic quality, but we rely on that. We want to get that emotional factor to find out what is going to make the event shine for you.

Q: What strengths and skills do you think Gen Z should lean into when it comes to marketing themselves?

A: I think we really need to absorb the power of the digital age. Ours was the first generation to be completely digital. We take advantage of not only trends but also social media marketing, AI marketing and all these things that make events more productive and streamlined. Our generation also has a very good focus on diversity and inclusivity in event planning and bringing diverse perspectives and cultural awareness that ensures events are welcoming to all attendees. In a rapidly changing environment, that’s key. It’s very easy for us to adapt and think quickly on our feet and come to a new solution as well. I think that when we leverage the tech-savvy skills, creativity and adaptability of our generation of event planners, it brings an energy to the industry that’s engaging, fresh and new.

Q: How do you find a balance between promoting your generation as a strength and mitigating negative judgments about it?

A: I think it’s a meticulous balance. You have to use the opportunity when you can. For me, a big point in my hiring was I used my youth, and I was lucky to be in a situation where my boss was open to new ideas. Other people may be more reluctant to embrace change. Before I meet my clients, I try not to talk about my age because I don’t want them to think right off the bat, ‘she’s a kid, she can’t handle this.’ But once people realized what I could do and that I had this diverse perspective and the adaptability of our generation, they respected me. But it took me a while to gain that respect and confidence in myself.

Q: What innovative tools can the next generation of planners master and bring to the table?

A: AI is a big one. It can even be used for simple things; for instance, having AI build a floor chart for you or having AI assign tasks to different employees. My generation also tends to understand new trends and technology, such as using technology as a tool for check-in processes. We tend to use less paper and focus on more digital because digital outlooks catch mistakes. AI is a fantastic tool for creative outlook. We’re all about being open to the client’s ideas and going off that to see how we can apply digital processes to what the client wants as well.

Q: Does Gen Z bring a fresh take to any other aspects of planning?

A: I do think social media as a whole is something we use a lot more. We have access to all these free means of social media, where you can go in and pay for ads, but it’s just as easy to post something that’s free from a digital marketing perspective. A lot of older generations don’t embrace those platforms as much, but they increase awareness and can help events run smoother.