Event Design

Next Gen Attendees Drive Meeting Design Change

Skift Take

Event attendees are younger than ever before. Now, planners have to find innovative ways of crafting engaging and impactful events.

Event demographic data hasn’t told the entire picture, according to Ken Holsinger, senior vice president of strategy, Freeman speaking at the very first Skift Meetings Forum. “We’ve had a math problem in the data for a while, which is essentially that there are a lot of Boomers, there are a ton of millennials, and there aren’t very many Gen X,” he said. However, current data by the U.S. Department of Labor says Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce at a rapid rate. Freeman data shows that the average age of attendees dropped from 51, pre-pandemic, down to 45. Holsingler expects this to drop even lower in the immediate future.

This means a lot, he says, explaining that the previous average of 51 included a large portion of older attendees from the Baby Boomer generation. As Millennials begin to take up managerial roles at a quicker rate than previous generations, planners should anticipate seeing an emphasis on “soft skills and professional development.” “We’re seeing an uptick in the conversations around professional development, training, mentorship.” said Holsinger. 

The Next-Gen Impact on Event Design

As for crafting impactful events for younger attendees, “the details are in the design,” said Jordan Lacey, CMP, senior events associate of JP Morgan Chase. Lacey referenced the shorter attention spans of younger attendees, stressing the importance of shorter, plenary sessions. 

Anoushka Hirst, executive creative director of Freeman echoed that sentiment. She acknowledged how the ever-present social media has created a “wormhole.” She also reminded the audience that the goal is to drive interest beyond the time of an event session. Hirst says a key element in achieving this is shorter keynotes that are more engaging. 

“I think about Instagram, I think about TikTok, and it changes formats, changes speed and everything that’s going on, how those topics are being delivered,” Hirst said. As a result, attendees may not capture information delivered during a long-winded keynote. 

Creative Experiences on a Small Budget

“Elevated experiential creates elevated permeability,” Hirst said, adding that it’s not beneficial to create a demo for the demo’s sake. It’s important to create an immersive experience centered around gamification that leads to interactivity. Best of all, we can do it without a massive budget.

“I think it does come down to the ways that you break up an environment,” she said. Consider the overall journey and look to keep sessions short.