Meetings

Generational Preferences Among Meeting Planners

By / Sep 18, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

A new survey released by the International Association of Conference Centres takes a look at what meeting planners of all ages prefer and how that affects which venue and conference space is selected.

We all know that associations love to look at the impact different generations—especially millennials—are having on the industry, whether in terms of membership, learning, or news consumption.

These findings will help prepare meeting industry suppliers and enable them to tailor their products and services to accommodate the individual needs of each generation of planners.

And now a survey released by the International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) last week [PDF] reveals generational preferences among 200-plus meeting planners, particularly when it comes to how they do business and select venues. (Editor’s note: The survey focused on meeting planners in Australia and Asia-Pacific, but its findings are likely representative of planners worldwide.)

“There were important differences highlighted in the research in terms of preferences and priorities expressed by planners across the generations,” said Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC. “These findings will help prepare meeting industry suppliers and enable them to tailor their products and services to accommodate the individual needs of each generation of planners.”

The age groups of respondents were split into five categories: generation Z (under 18), generation Y or millennials (age 18-32), generation X (age 33-46), baby boomers (age 47-65), and mature (age 66 plus). Here are three key findings from the survey:

Sales and marketing preferences. Generation Y planners prefer attending venue promotional events to find out specifics about a venue, while generation X planners prefer going to tradeshows for that purpose. Not at all surprising: Both generation X and generation Y dislike phone calls, which suggests that telesales are not the way to promote venues to buyers any longer.

Instead, digital communication is number one for providing planners with the information they need to consider a venue for their meeting. Venues that have creative and effective ways of presenting the best virtual experience will likely please buyers most.

Venue-selection criteria. Generation Y buyers place greater importance on the technology capabilities of a venue than any other generation, with baby boomers placing location at the top of the list. Generation X places greater importance on the food and beverage offering than their younger and older counterparts. Having an experiential learning aspect is important for generation Y and generation Z participants, while baby boomer attendees prefer high-quality service over anything else.

Baby boomers also are more cost conscious than younger generations when selecting a conference venue. This finding differs from a survey released by Cvent early this summer, which found that millennial meeting planners are most likely to choose event venues based on cost.

Meeting planners of all generations said they take into account the age of their conference attendees when selecting a venue. For generation Z attendees, technology is the highest priority for planners, while for millennials, it’s making sure that activities are available nearby. And it’s all about location for generation Xers. Accessibility is what planners consider most for their baby boomer and mature attendees.

Meeting space elements. All generations are pretty much on the same page when it comes to what they look for in meeting space. The top-three elements for generation Y are that the space is conducive for learning, that it fosters collaboration and innovation, and that rooms can be broken out and set up in different ways. Last on the list for all: that the space has the ability to recognize key performers or partners.

For all you venue and destination readers out there, what other differences in preferences have you seen among different generations of meeting planners who you work with? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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