Millennials are the largest generation in the US workforce. As an event planner, you need to know how to draw and sustain the attention of this critical demographic. It’s a challenge, but one you can tackle with knowledge and a targeted action plan.
Read on to learn the top event engagement strategies for the generation born between 1981 and 1996. From industry conferences to networking events to fundraisers, these tips will help you meet and exceed the expectations of your millennial event attendees.
Embrace technology to engage millennials and set the tone for your company event:
Millennials grew up in the age of personal technology. They are comfortable with tech of all varieties, and prefer tech options—especially if they make things faster and easier.
1. Offer fast (and complimentary) Wi-Fi throughout the venue.
Check with your venue to ensure Wi-Fi service is fast and consistent throughout the space, including any outdoor locations. If your event is technology-based, test the Wi-Fi to ensure it doesn’t get glitchy when internet traffic is heavy.
2. Provide abundant, easy-to-spot charging stations.
Offer enough charging locations so that multiple attendees can recharge their tech at once, without having to wait long. Charging stations are smart locations for sponsor logos or branding for your client’s company.
3. Use barcode scanners or RFID technology for check-in.
Nobody enjoys lines, but millennials are particularly impatient with log-jams at events. Use RFID (radio frequency identification) technology that supports a quick check-in. Whether your RFIDs are bracelets, badges, or key fobs, make sure they are easy to carry and branded for the event.
4. Create an attractive and informative event website.
Tech-savvy millennials want a visually appealing and simple-to-navigate website. If visitors are buying tickets on the site, make sure the process is straightforward and the steps are minimal. Also, keep the site updated with the latest event information.
5. Set up touchscreen kiosks for self check-in and information.
Large conferences, in particular, are overwhelming. At arrival, give attendees the option to check-in at a kiosk or interact with event check-in personal. It’s also helpful to place kiosks around common areas of the event, so attendees can check floorplans, find vendors and speakers, and review the agenda.
6. Design an event app.
Whether you’re planning an industry conference for a thousand or a leadership conference for 30, a mobile event app can increase engagement for the millennial crowd. An event app creates a hub for all critical event information, lets you send notifications about speakers and changes, and even survey event-goers.
Use social media to engage millennials and drum up interest before, during, and after the event:
Millennials turn to social media for business recommendations, personal and professional inspiration, pop-culture memes, and industry news. Use social platforms to establish a connection before the event, and sustain engagement during and after the event.
7. Create a unique hashtag for the event.
Pick a hashtag that’s easy to remember and start using it to promote your event. Friend every person who registers and start a chat with them that includes your hashtag. Use it during and after the event to drum up interest for next year and increase attendance.
8. Live stream the event on Facebook.
According to Facebook Live stats, Facebook videos produce six times the interaction of recorded videos. Aim to live stream segments and small portions of your event (15 to 20 minutes is ideal) to engage attendees and reach out to new audiences.
9. Promote your event through social media.
Set up a group and promote your event on LinkedIn or Facebook so that attendees can participate in discussions, share thoughts, and provide feedback. Millennials love to interact and engage with others over common interests.
10. Create a custom geofilter on Snapchat.
Promote your brand, logo, and event the modern way with a geofilter for business. When attendees are on Snapchat, they’ll see your geofilter among their options for editing their photos. When they add them to their story, others will see your geofilter, spreading awareness of your brand far beyond your attendees.
11. Send out high-value email newsletters after the event.
If they engaged during the event, Millennials will check out follow-up emails. Include event highlights, and provide a list of the top ten takeaways. If you have a date set for the next annual event, share it in the newsletter. Finally, include plenty of candid pictures taken during the event to remind attendees of their positive experiences.
Offer non-stop opportunities for engagement:
Millennials want to feel as though they’re an important part of the event. Engage them at every step of the way and you’ll keep their attention throughout the event—and long afterward.
12. Encourage interaction.
Set up a graffiti wall in a smaller conference room where attendees can express themselves. Place puzzles in common areas where guests can work together. Organize fun event ice-breakers that even the most introverted attendees will enjoy.
13. Give millennials a voice.
Millennials appreciate when others value their opinions. Create opportunities for them to provide their perspectives, knowledge, and ideas. Use live polling in the middle of sessions, offer Q&A time after keynote presentations, and present surveys for feedback at any point to keep them engaged.
14. Incorporate learning opportunities.
Networking, career growth, and professional development are powerful draws for Millennials. Incorporate upskilling opportunities at your corporate events, as well as opportunities for self-discovery, self-improvement, wellness, and creative expression.
15. Play games that encourage friendly competition.
Millennials love to play games and compete against each other. By incorporating event app gamification into your event, you’ll deliver innovation, tech, and trends in one smart swoop. Set up games of cornhole or wood stacking blocks in hallways or lounges. Attendees can collect points to cash in for prizes or swag at the end of the event.
16. Keep them on the move.
Instead of a coffee break between sessions, bring in an instructor for a 15-minute fitness break and encourage participants to get up and move. Movement enhances cognitive function and provides a welcome break from a jam-packed agenda.
17. Facilitate group activities for networking.
Set up a few early-morning or post-dinner activities outside of the conference. Attendees can get to know each other better during evening yoga sessions, winery tours, or even a trip to a local amusement park.
18. Hire an engaging keynote—and offer opportunities to interact.
Of course, you want an engaging keynote, no matter the demographic. But millennials will zone out if the speaker doesn’t have an up-to-the-minute topic and a dynamic delivery. It’s also helpful if the speaker has an active social media presence, and you offer real-time question submission or responses to the keynote.
Prioritize unique event visuals and experiences for millennials:
Millennials value experiences over things, so it’s essential to create experiential events for this demographic. Whether it’s activities or decor, the event should have out-of-the-ordinary offerings.
19. Switch up the basic floor plan.
Forget the usual classroom set-up. Use your event diagram software to create a custom room layout with varied table sizes or even cozy sofas and chairs for dynamic breakout sessions. Check out these event seating trends for conference layout ideas.
20. Provide a feast for the eyes.
The millennial audience is increasingly visual. Grab attention with bright, colorful signage and banners, lively lighting designs, and bold decor. Think ‘living’ walls covered in plants, ombre balloon displays, and artful fabric backdrops that attendees are more likely to post to social media.
21. Schedule some downtime.
Don’t stuff the schedule for attendees. Millennials prefer to have a balance that allows some ‘me’ time amid the seminars, speakers, and networking opportunities. Help them by adding an extra 30 minutes to the lunch break and setting up transportation to a nearby museum when events wrap up on the first day.
22. Set up photo booths or picture stations.
Make it easy for guests to capture the moment at your conference, annual meeting, or non-profit event by setting up photo stations. These can be formal photo booths or tableaus you create with striking backdrops and selfie frame cutouts printed with your company logo.
23. Make swag useable or local.
Make sure the swag is something helpful your attendees can use beyond the event, or make it a product unique to the event locale. Consider solar powering banks, reusable straws with carrying cases, or sweets from a local chocolatier.
24. Offer an opportunity to give back.
Millennials are activists who believe in their power to make a difference through money, information sharing, and direct action. They’ll appreciate the option of a matching donation to a non-profit organization during event registration. Or, organize outings to nearby food pantries or animal shelters where they can donate a few volunteer hours.
Offer Instagram-worthy event F&B to engage millennials:
Instagram has changed the way we eat and even what we eat. Focus on fun presentations and lively colors so your millennial attendees are inspired to share (and include your event hashtag in their posts.)
25. Change the morning routine.
Set up a unique display of specialty donuts and pastries from an artisan bakery in the morning. Think donut walls or pastries presented on wooden slats held up on either side by ladders.
26. Create a lunch experience.
Book a few food trucks with various offerings for a ‘choose-your-own’ afternoon luncheon.
27. Get out of the afternoon slump.
Bring in a unique treat for mid-afternoon munchies such as a confectionary artist, tapas bar, or an ombre display of frosted cupcakes.
28. Beautify the water.
Offer water throughout the event in large, clear glass decanters filled with attractive herbs, fruits, or edible flower infusions.
29. Make plates pretty.
Speak with your caterer about upping the presentation value when serving dinner, whether it’s a decorative plate with edible garnishes for a seated event or unique offerings at the buffet station.
30. Choose new caffeinated drinks.
Coffee is great (as long as it’s fair trade), but millennials are shaking up the coffee industry and drinking less than past generations. Offer out-of-the-ordinary pick-me-up drinks such as:
- Matcha, Chai, and bubble tea
- Frappuccinos, nitros, and cold brews
31. Go healthy and organic.
Remember that healthy and organic options speak directly to the heart of the millennial crowd. And offer non-dairy, nut-free, gluten-free options, labeled clearly.
Are all of these tips and event components of interest to millennials alone? No. There’s cultural, professional, and technological overlap between the generations. But to stay relevant to millennials in particular, you’ll need to prioritize some of the above ideas.
Now you’re ready to plan awesome events for millennials!
Want to know how millennials and other generations really feel about your event? Check out our list of post-event evaluation questions to get the answers you need. And use Social Tables event planning software to help measure your success.