ann_fishman Where Generations Meet: How to Adapt Your Meetings to Younger Generations

Final Thoughts

October 05, 2007

By Ann Fishman

A few final thoughts about Generation X and Generation Y…

Last word about Gen X.  You have to earn their loyalty with each and every meeting.  It’s a challenge to keep them.

Why?  Because Xers are unforgiving when disappointed.  They won’t give you a second chance.  Rather, they gravitate toward meetings and events that deliver what’s been promised.

Last word about Gen Y.  They are looking for constant change.  Ys grew up with computers at home … and in a 500-channel television universe.  They receive an overwhelming amount of media messages every day and they thrive on it.

Picture a Gen Y talking on the speaker phone with TV in the background, surfing the Internet, downloading music and waiting for the pager to beep or an instant message to pop up.  Gen Ys need constant change.

As a meeting planner, are you providing that constant change for those grasshopper-minded Ys?  The need for constant change makes Gen Ys great at multi-tasking, but needful of rapidly-paced days when you plan an event.

That’s all for now.  I wish you great luck with your next meeting.

Individuals Vs. Team Players

October 04, 2007

By Ann Fishman

Today, I’d like to draw a sharp contrast between Gen Xers (26-46) and Gen Ys (7-25). 
Xers are highly individualistic and Gen Ys are team players.  Why? 

Gen Xers were children of divorce, one-parent families, often both parents working.  Xers were forced to become self-reliant and practical.  They became accustomed to clothing, feeding and minding themselves, even doing the family shopping.  So, they don’t like to be lumped in a group because they have strong individual needs and a desire to be respected for their own way of doing things.

Gen Ys are team players.  The team player concept is very strong with Generation Y.  They are accustomed to team teaching, team grading, team sports.  The list goes on and on.  Gen Ys are team players and want to feel connected.

These generational characteristics (Gen Xers are individualistic; Gen Ys are team players) are critical for meeting planners to pay attention to.  As meeting attendees become more and more a mix of these two generations, meeting planners need to make sure that activities, entertainment and education offer enough variety to delight the highly-individualistic Xers and the team-oriented Gen Ys.

What Xers Expect from Meeting Planners

October 03, 2007

By Ann Fishman

Moving on now to more information about what Xers expect from meeting planners…

Here’s an important fact.  Gen X grew up in front of TV, watching Sesame Street, playing with computers as kids, then they moved on to jobs working with computers.  So, they are greatly affected by visual stimulation.

That means, every marketing effort to Xers should be highly-visual.  And, again, copy should be short, very short.  No matter what your promotional effort might be, effective, inviting visuals are a must.

On your website today, consider the use of unexpected, non-traditional visuals.

Think visual when designing your invitation to attend a conference or a meeting.
Think visual in follow-up promotions.
Think visual in all aspects of your meeting planning – from food to booths to handouts – and everything in-between.

Many businesses are using the old postcard with a new twist.  There’s a whole new breed of these today-kind of advertising postcards, featuring simple, yet knock-your-socks-off visuals.  Usually, these postcards feature a splashy picture on the front and only the name of a business and its website address on the back.  After all, it is to be used as a postcard.  The marketing purpose of these new-style postcards is to catch the eye of Gen X and invite Xers to visit the company’s website.

Getting any ideas?

Communicating with Generation X

October 02, 2007

By Ann Fishman

Today, we’re going to talk about communicating information about meetings to the younger generations, particularly Generation X, ages 26 to 46.

Xers think differently.  They think in text-messaging format – short, very short, efficient copy.  Meeting planners can take a lesson from savvy advertisers who speak to Xers in their language format.  For example, Chase Bank in New York City is currently responding to Gen X’s need for short, efficient copy.  Chase is promoting their loans with large signs in branch windows that read “GT$FSTR” followed by a smiley face emoticon.  To Gen X, that reads “Get Money Faster ”.
That may be too short for your needs, but can you use short efficient formatting in your world?  Why not?

When trying to connect with Gen Xers through your website, here are a few things to avoid:
-Avoid the need to scroll.  Xers hate scrolling.
-Avoid creating web pages with too much text.  Just use very few words that say it clearly and simply.

Here are a few more tips when communicating through your website:
-Be sure to avoid risking your Xer audience by duplicating links, using the same links on the left side and again at the top.
-and avoid illogical placement of information.  It drives Xers crazy because they are so logical.

If you have any doubts about how your website shapes up for potential Xer meeting attendees, have your Gen X employees analyze your website.  They’ll clean it up in a hurry.  The whole idea here is – Gen Xers do respond to communication that understands their uniqueness, their way of receiving and processing information.

What's Happening with the Younger Generations?

October 01, 2007

By Ann Fishman

America is moving away from the values, attitudes and lifestyles of the once influential Baby Boomers – toward the values, attitudes and lifestyles of the younger generations.

Keep this fact in mind: the younger the generation, the more different the marketing AND the meeting!

First, let me give you a look at the generational picture as it is right now – October 1, 2007.  There are six generations of Americans alive today.  Here they are:
The G.I. Generation, born 1901 to 1924, ages today 83 to 106;
The Silent Generation, born 1925 to 1942, ages today 65 to 82;
The Baby Boom Generation, born 1943 to 1960, ages today 47 to 64;
Generation X, born 1961 to 1981, ages today, 26 to 46;
Generation Y, born 1982 to 2000, ages today, 7 to 25; and,
Generation 9/11, born 2001 to a date in the future, ages today six and younger.

Over the next four days, we’ll talk about what’s happening with the younger generations because that where you have the strongest potential.  Tomorrow, we’ll touch on what Generation Xers expect when you communicate with them.  Knowing how a generation wants you to communicate with them is key because old-style communication can turn off potential meeting attendees in the click of a mouse.

Getting Ready for Generation Y

January 12, 2007

By Ann Fishman

Let’s not forget Generation Y, ages 25 and younger.

Gen Ys are looking for constant change.

They’ve growing up with computers at home … and in a 500-channel universe.  Growing up in the information age, they receive an overwhelming amount of media messages everyday and these techno-tots thrive on it.

Gen Y is an interactive generation.

Growing up with the computers, pagers and cell phones, they’re used to continually responding to everything.  From corporate questions about products -  to text-messaging a vote for the next American Idol - to communicating with a professor during a class, Ys are used to interacting.  It’s a great part of how they see define communication.

For meeting planners, all this can translate into speakers giving shorter, more interactive sessions; attendees text-messaging their questions to a big screen during sessions; or inviting Ys to take a hand in helping you plan the meeting in advance by asking for their suggestions.  The Y who offers the best suggestion can get a prize [no garbage gifts here … perhaps, coffee with the CEO or the president of the organization.]

Any thoughts out there about providing constant change or interactivity at meetings or conferences?

Thanks for your input and for chatting with me.  It’s been fun.

Connecting with Xers After the Meeting

January 11, 2007

By Ann Fishman

Here’s another Gen X characteristic.  And, it’s one that will pay off in the long run.

Xers value a sense of belonging … a sense of family … which was missing in their childhood.

Xers would appreciate the fact that an organization wants to connect with them for more than just their entrance fees or as potential business prospects.  Successful meetings and conferences help attendees move ahead.  How can a meeting planner help a client continue to do this - after the event is over?

Simply suggest to the client to keep in touch with the attendees.  Usually, attendees have to fill out questionnaires about what they liked most about the conference.  Picking one or two hot topics and arranging with the "hot topic" speakers to provide quarterly tips that can be posted on the client's web site is one way.

Another way - the meeting planner can ask early registrants if they have special concerns [they can just email them to you] which will enable the meeting planner to see if the meeting will meet the younger audience's needs or if the meeting needs to be tweaked a little.  Taking that extra step with Xers can make a big difference.

Any other thoughts out there?

Gen X's Need for the New

January 10, 2007

By Ann Fishman

Today, let’s look at another Gen X characteristic.  Think about ways you can apply this characteristic to your next meeting or conference.

Xers are influenced by their need for new experiences.

This generation has always looked beyond the NOW to the NEW.  Bus trips to see the local sights don’t cut it.  Remember, this is the generation that went beyond bungee jumping to invent their own extreme sports, like extreme skiing or in-line skating.

So, Xers appreciate something different.  And, they expect you to develop social options that fit their unique interests.  This generation wants to have fun … their way.  That can mean something as big as an interesting destination or something as small as incorporating local cuisine into your menus. 

This generation even looks backward to find "something new." A bar with a big-screen TV, soft furniture, a pool table or pinball machines might be nice.  Bingo games with GREAT PRIZES are appearing at some of the Xer clubs and Irish pubs with their dartboards are a real hit.  Some clubs offer "lock and key" night where the guys are given keys and the women locks and you have a certain amount of time to find a fit.  You meet a lot of people along the way and you get a prize if you find a fit within the time frame.  It’s a walk on the wild side (not really…), but you get the idea of trying something new. 

The new, popular and "in" hotels that Xers like always have great bars that are not pick-up places, but make it fun to mix and mingle or just watch the passing parade.

Any ideas out there from Xers about new experiences that would be fun at a meeting during free time?

How to Speak to an Xer

January 09, 2007

By Ann Fishman

Today, we’ll look at one important Gen X characteristic - and exchange ideas about tweaking meetings and conferences to fit younger generations without alienating other generations.  The more you know about X’s generational characteristics, the better you can tailor your meetings.  So, here we go!

Xers are practical: how will this influence the speakers you hire or invite?

1. Xers want substantive information that can help them advance in their current jobs or become better prepared when they move on.  Motivational speakers don’t motivate them. 
2. Xers want information they cannot get off the Internet or from a book.  They don’t like to waste their time. 

3. Xers want to hear from speakers who are in a position of power.  They want to know how the game is played.

4. If speakers use PowerPoint, Xers expect speakers to use it correctly:
- use PP slides only when necessary
- don’t put up a laundry list of multiple points you are about to make
- think in email: write short on your slides

5. Speakers should customize their speeches to fit the needs of the audience and try to find out which generation will dominate the audience.  If this is not possible, a speech that will satisfy the needs of Xers in the audience will generally satisfy all generations.

Xers, send me your thoughts on techniques of speakers you enjoyed and techniques of speakers you felt were a waste.  No names please!

Baby Boomers Vs. Generation X

January 07, 2007

By Ann Fishman

Most of what’s been happening in America since the end of World War II is based on Baby Boomer values, attitudes and lifestyles.  Now, Generation X is threatening the "Me Generation" values with not only a transition of power but more: a fresh change of course.

Here's a capsule of these two very different generations.  Baby Boomers are the 79 million who were born between 1943 and 1960.  Fewer than 68 million are alive today…ranging in age from 47 to 64 years.  Generation X are the 93 million who were born between 1961 and 1981.  More than 83 million are alive today…ranging in age from 26 to 46.  [2000 Census]    

Baby Boomer values have been so pervasive in America for so long that most of us have adopted their value system.  Now, we are in for a shock.  Generation X is replacing Boomer values with their own values, attitudes and lifestyles.  By 2008, Gen X, with help from the next younger generation, will be able to outvote all older generations combined.  Everything we know, everything we're used to, everything we do in Boomer style won't work once Xers take over.  An example for meeting planners - Boomers thrive on motivational speakers; Xers want speeches that give them information they cannot find in a book or on the Internet.

Hold onto your hats – the generational clash will affect you in ways you never thought about: at home, in the school system, in the workplace, in the marketplace, in the voting booth, in the environment, in retirement, in health care, in international affairs…everywhere.

For the next four days, we’ll explore Gen X (26-46) and Gen Y (25 years and younger) values and exchange ideas about how to make meetings tick for them. 

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