Despite what you’ve read about millennials and the impending decline of the meetings industry, a new report by the Meetings Mean Business Coalition found that this generation understands the importance of in-person events.
Millennial meeting goers are looking for a more customized learning experience, but at the end of the day they—like other generations before them—place great value on face-to-face meetings, according to a new report released last week by the Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC).
While advances in technology have affected how young professionals prefer to communicate and do business, people born between 1980 and 2000 understand the importance of attending in-person events to expand their networks and nurture their professional development, the report said.
In fact, the report cites a February 2015 survey by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events and the Professional Convention Management Association that showed millennials have a greater desire to attend live meetings and events than members of older generations. Overall, 65 percent of more than 7,100 respondents said that if circumstances allowed, they would attend more face-to-face events. Broken down by generation, 79 percent of millennials said they would attend more in-person events compared to 71 percent of gen Xers, 63 percent of baby boomers, and 46 percent of the greatest generation.
“You heard it all about millennials over the last few years—they’re not going to have any loyalty, meetings are going to die, they’re going to jump from job to job, and so on,” said Michael Dominguez, MMBC cochair and senior vice president of corporate sales at MGM Resorts International. “A lot of the research we’ve seen, and even in other studies we’ve done recently, we’re seeing the exact opposite.”
The change in thinking around generation Y, Dominguez said, is a result of a recognition that young professionals, who now make up the largest portion of the U.S. workforce as of the first quarter of 2015, are moving past their jobs and into their careers.
Millennials want to meet and engage in new ways, according to the report. That’s where organizations that hold meetings—associations in particular—are struggling, Dominguez said.
“You have a lot of people telling you what the millennials want and don’t want in a meeting experience,” he said. “But when I see some of these leadership boards, there are no millennials, yet somehow they’re going to understand what their needs and wants are? The planning process, the organization, the structure, educational content—millennials need to be involved in it in some way, shape, or form.”
Dominguez said one way meeting planners can create meeting experiences that appeal to younger professionals is to provide more open space and time for informal gatherings.
“We tend to try to plan every minute of the meeting from breakouts to general sessions,” he said, “but I think the ability to think in like groups and the ability to create open spaces is one way to get millennials more engaged. With social media and other technology, those spaces will be able to take on a life of their own.”