After three years of restrictions around hosting in-person events due to the global pandemic, most organizations have returned to hosting in-person meetings, annual conferences, regional get-togethers, and more. However, just because an association is back to having in-person events does not mean that young professionals will willingly attend.
Post-pandemic, the priorities and expectations of young professionals in the workforce—now comprised of millennials and “Gen Zers”—have changed. Instead of hours-long keynote speeches and back-to-back education sessions, young professionals are approaching events as day-long/multi-day networking opportunities where they can connect with others in their professions, fields, and industries. This is a drastic shift from the mindset that events should be centered around attendees obtaining continuing education credits — something that can now often be obtained online.
Additionally, young professionals understand that budgets are still tight for professional development opportunities and are therefore more cautious and particular about which events they do and do not attend. As trends are showing, young professionals are more inclined to attend events that are authentic, inspirational, personalized, and speak directly to their career aspirations.
So, how can your association develop an event that is meeting the wants and needs of young professionals? Consider the following:
Incorporate face-to-face networking opportunities
Young professionals do not want to be stuck in meeting rooms and lecture halls all day. They want to meet new people and take advantage of opportunities to build their networks locally, nationally, and internationally. Apart from dedicated food breaks, associations can look to host receptions geared towards the younger generations as well as collaborative sharing sessions, roundtable meet-ups, and even off-site social activities at popular attractions in an event’s host city.
Innovate an event’s design
Associations need to start personalizing their events, whether they are for 50 people or 1,500 people. Learn what motivates attendees, particularly the young professional attendees, through research and focus groups to understand behaviors and how they approach the world to develop a set of patterns that can then be used to reinvent event experiences.
Understand how to market to the young professional demographic
It’s well known that younger generations are “glued” to their screens. Laptops, cell phones, tablets – you name it. Every day, multiple times a day, people are scrolling through social media, browsing the internet, and catching up on the latest news briefs. Develop a marketing plan that encompasses a strong social media presence to promote the young professional event atmosphere and experiences your association is working to develop. If budget allows, invest in paid advertising opportunities that specifically promote the networking, relationship building, and personalized components.
The workforce will continue to change, especially as more "Boomers" and “Gen Xers” depart, and as “Gen Zers” join and millennials take on leadership roles. It’s important that association events adapt with these changes and accommodate the wants and needs of event-goers, even if it means breaking the mold of what has traditionally been done at in-person events in the past.
This article is part of the "Musings from a Millennial" series from Monica Roselli:
Monica Roselli is in Marketing & Communications Services at Smithbucklin.
This article was originally published on August 9, 2023.