What do Millennials look for in events?

From 2015 on, the number of Millennials exceeds Baby Boomers in the United States labour market.

From 2015 on, the number of Millennials exceeds Baby Boomers in the United States labour market. Much is said about Millennials preferring online to face-to-face events, preferring to text to talking to someone, but is that really the case? What challenges present themselves to conference and event organisers?

A study by the Pew Research Center and Goldman Sachs Macroeconomic Insights showed that last year in the US labour market, Millennials already exceeded Baby Boomers. Let's first clarify these concepts. Millennials, or Generation Y, are those born after 1980, although some also consider those born in the late 70's part of this group. Baby Boomers are a "product" of World War II, considering people who were born after 1946 and until 1964. In the middle, there is Generation X, which incorporates those who came into this world from mid-60's to late 70's. Each of these generations displays common traits that allow some generalisation. For example, Baby Boomers are characterised by, among other things, valuing fixed jobs and financial stability. Generation X, although it has already been in touch with technology, has behaviours of great resistance to change.

But let us focus on Millennials. This generation has lived and coexists with advances in technology, adopting them. It has a great desire for new experiences, movement and in terms of work, enjoys rapid rise and changing jobs. And in terms of events?

A report by Meetings Mean Business and Skiftconcludes Millennials value face-to-face events as much as previous generations. Because events allow personal and professional development, building professional relationships, enhancing business.

A study by Cornerstone OnDemand with a thousand young Americans over 18 years shows that 72% of respondents prefer on-site meetings instead of virtual communication. And in February 2015, PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association), IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions & Events) and The Experience Institute published the first phase of a study called Behavior Behind the Decision to Attend, focused on the motivation factors that lead people to an event. The study gathered interviews with 7,171 people. The most mentioned factors to attend in conventions and meetings had to do with destination, people, content, and the event experience. The study shows that, in fact, Millennials want to participate in live events, even more than previous generations. About 65% of respondents replied that they would enjoy participating in more events. Sorting through generations, the result was: Generation Y / Millennials 79%, Generation X 71%, Baby Boomers and 63% Pre-Boomers (1930-1945) 46%. The study also shows a willingness of this generation to further explore the destination and have a real experience of it.

The experience economy

EventBrite wondered how Millennials spend their money and found that not only do they value experiences, but they are willing to increase spending on them.

For this generation, happiness is not possessing things, in having goods, it is going to concerts, watching sports events, joining social events and having cultural experiences... in short, they want to have an epic life! Being a very significant portion of the population, this means that the experience economy is in fast growth.

Eight in ten Millennials say that some of their favourite memories were produced in an event. And in a world dominated by social media, the "fear" of losing an experience makes this generation choose to show, share and engage, concludes EventBrite.

Consequently, the experience side of events, whether brand or public, is steadily increasing, in order to reach these audiences or "win their hearts," as so accurately put the study authors. But Millennials are not the only ones who want to undergo experiences, as at this time this objective is transverse to the several generations.


So, how can events approach this generation? Rosa Garriga, meeting design expert cited in Skift's study, says what these participants want is networking to increase their network of contacts, but at the same time many are not great at it. For the expert, workshops or interactive panels between audience and speakers bring more return and are more effective than any other type of educational session.

"I think that for event organisers to succeed [with this public] they have to enable the ability of people finding others with similar interests." "I attend many events in which this does not happen. I meet people by chance."

One way to improve this is to pair these participants with mentors with already an established network. Michael Dominguez, from MGM Resorts International, says "We have to stop throwing people into a room and tell them 'now, network'. Some organisations are using a buddy program". That is, when someone goes to an event for the first time they team up with someone more experienced. This is just an idea, and it is necessary to think and design better solutions to the networking at events issue.


Millennials expect technology in the events, including fast wi-fi, hybrid content, social media interaction, participation and voting platforms, apps, and a customised experience. Events must know the participants taste and with the help of technology, to recommend this or that session, speaker, people who are close and that are important to the network of contacts, etc. A study by Oracle software supports this idea. "Mobile is a way of life for Millennials.

Organisations that want to engage with this generation need to see mobile as an important part of the business and the first channel to reach customers." Creating a mobile-friendly event is vital.


It is a way to engage Millennials, competitive by nature. Group activities, contests, games, icebreakers and even physical exercise help to make them more engaged with events.


Promoting of social media sharing at all stages of the event, using hashtags, is now a relatively widespread and valued practice by this group. The social media of the moment for this generation is Snapchat, and it turns out important to strategically incorporate it in the event. According to PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association), if we want young people in events we have to pay attention to Snapchat. What still does not happen.

A study by Bizzabo says that only three percent of organisations use it to promote events. Why? Asks PCMA. Because content disappears after some time? Because it is in a mobile environment only? Because it is not searchable? Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO, in an interview with Disrupt SF, says that the fundamental premise is that it is better and more fun erasing everything, except what is really important to be saved. This view is certainly shared by 100 million users (70% is under 35 years). This poses itself as a major challenge for marketeers and for events in general. Recently, Snapchat launched a potentially useful tool for organisers, the On-Demand Geofilters. With it, you can create a filter for the meeting or event, which can include fun drawings or text and create a time space in which it can be used and georeference it.


The importance of the event destination is remarkable for Millennials. They love travelling and prefer to do so saving resources in travel and accommodation, to spend more money enjoying the destination. Meetings Imagined remember this generation prefers exciting destinations, with good public transport and many activities to do. Basically, combining work and fun.

Go green and give back

Matters of sustainability and social responsibility are highly valued by Generation Y. They want to be part of something that will help changing the world. Approaching events to these assumptions is very important, as noted by the Event Manager Blog. "These qualities make events more attractive for young participants," it reads. And you can always start by making a paper-free event.

Hire a Millennial

Another suggestion from the Event Manager Blog is to include a representative of this generation in the event's team to open new perspectives.  

Tags: Millennials, Trends, Events