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Use Meeting Demographics to Your Advantage

Posted on November 27, 2006

By Vincent Alonzo

Though I pride myself on being a cynical journalist, I must admit I’m a bit of a sucker for those fairy-tale news stories about working stiffs winning the lottery. That’s why I still remember a Powerball drawing from about a year ago where a group of co-workers won about $300 million.

But the angle I remember most from the story was how the media made such a big deal about how these winners exemplified America's shifting demographics. Although the winners came from the heart of the country--Lincoln, Nebraska--the winners hailed from a variety of countries and ethnicities.

It’s easy to identify today’s increasingly influential ethnic population groups: Hispanics and Asians. And it would also be fairly easy to identify the food & beverage choices that would make a meeting a more fulfilling experience for these groups.

But in reality, when it comes to demographics, we’re too hung up on ethnicity, race, and especially age. You can barely pick up a magazine or watch a news program without seeing some think piece on how Gen Xers are different from Boomers, who are different from Gen Yers, who have nothing to do with Tweeners, etc...

But throughout the country, there is another group whose growing numbers bring a host of new realities to planning meetings but who, for the most part, are ignored by meeting planners—and marketers and the media too, for that matter.

Today, there are about 100 million adult Americans who are single. To make that enormous number even more important, these Americans head up nearly 53 million households, or nearly half of all American homes. In comparison, Hispanics—whose growing numbers are widely documented—make up a population one-third as large.

So considering the needs of this invisible segment can have an enormous impact on the success of your meeting. 

Here are some numbers: More than half of all singles are women. Nearly two-thirds of singles have never been married. Nearly one-quarter of singles are divorced and 14 percent are widowed. Nearly 30 million Americans live alone. These single person households account for slightly more than one-quarter of all households. Some 12 million Americans are single parents; more than 80 percent of them are women.

The numbers are large, which means the challenges and opportunities are equally significant. Just off the top of my head, here are some of the opportunities: Those single parents would probably be very interested in on-site children programs and pre- and post packages to turn the meeting into a quality-time vacation with their children. Also, many of those who live alone might respond to pillow gifts such as one-cup coffee makers, or items that help them pursue hobbies or leisure activities. And all of them would appreciate more networking activities that have a social component, such as dine-arounds.

Unlike ethnic groups, these shoppers won't come with special accents, languages, or customs. But the opportunities are just as real with this group, for those planners who choose to grab them.


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Joan Eisenstodt

Superb stuff, Vince. Just read an article about the number of single parents - mainly women - who are CHOOSING parenthood and may be in relationships or may not be. Then there are those of us who chose not to be parents who are a huge demographic and are ignored. Each group's demographics is different .. and why they don't pay attention is .. a wonder. Thanks for raising the issues.

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