Disengagement Does Not Discriminate: Making Engaging Events for All Generations
Some time right around when the Millennial generation was first hitting the workforce we got calls from frantic event planners: "How do we engage this new generation who just want to be on their phones all the time, won't pay attention, etc."
We would ask a few questions: How were you engaging your audience before?
And in most cases the answer was: Well, we didn't have to. This is a whole new generation we're dealing with!
While it's true that there are some generational engagement differences (i.e. Millennials skewing toward favoring collaboration), the truth of the matter is: The audience always NEEDED to be engaged...but previous generations just didn't have as many outward signs of boredom.
Disengagement does not discriminate; audiences need to be actively engaged no matter their age, generation, gender, race, creed, or other.
Here are 4 ways to cross-generationally engage your audience:
1. Competition and Collaboration: Capitalize on the very human need to connect and compete by incorporating participation in the form of competition and collaboration. Divide the audience into collaborative teams that compete against each other throughout the event--not just during one big block of dedicated "teambuilding" time.
2. Technology without Distraction: Embrace technology, but put the phone away. Audiences are often reluctant to part with their phones--particularly when they know that an event isn't going to be compelling. It's an entertainment crutch that keeps them afloat when presentations are dull. BUT being an event luddite is also totally out of touch.
Balance the need for tech with proprietary hardware, dedicated engagement points, and plenty of face-to-face interaction. If you're polling or gamifying your event--do it on a system dedicated for that--not the attendees' phones.
3. Compelling Presentation: People of all generations need to be re-engaged every 5-7 minutes. We use the example: "Are you ever in church listening to the sermon and you find yourself with a wandering mind wondering how they dust way up in the upper reaches of the ceiling?" It's an example that transcends through the generations.
All audiences need active engagement. Ways to do this within a presentation include: Telling stories, taking a poll, doing an activity, showing a clip, adding humor, and much, much more.
4. Meaningful Downtime: Letting the audience into the great wild of the evening event with the idea that they'll have some sort of meaningful connection or networking is, well, aspirational.
Have directed and meaningful downtime with structured networking that revolves around activity and events instead of loose conversation.