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.


Persuade Perfect: Be better at convincing your audience at your event.

We all have different styles of being persuaded. In other words: different personality types look for different types of evidence to determine the viability of a persuasive argument.

So, naturally, what persuades Donald Trump wouldn't do much for Mr. Rogers (and vice versa).

As with learning styles there are a number of personality and persuasion models. Fortunately these models pretty much agree on the cross-section of criteria needed to reach most of the personality profiles.

We use the personality profiles suggested by Dr. Tony Alessandra in his book The Platinum Rule when building persuasive presentations at an event. The profiles are as follows: 

  • The Director: Challenge-oriented, decisive, propelled by the inner need to be in charge, overcoming obstacles and accomplishment. Think Walt Disney. 
  • The Socializer: Chatty, expressive, fun-loving optimist that likes the crest of ideas, causes or projects. Key for socializers are building a network of friends and admirers. Think Austin Powers. 
  • The Relater: Friendly and personable, they operate at a slow steady pace and seldom show emotional peaks or valleys. They like to progress slowly and methodically. Think Mr. Rogers.
  • The Thinker: Cerebrally oriented, prefer tasks over people and are contemplative, cautious and thorough. They thrive on detail and discipline. Think Joe Friday. 
 The above profiles are extremes; people tend to be a blend of types (i.e. a Socializing Director).

You can see some of the implications of persuasion profiles here: 

How this manifests at an event:

Your audience is full of people who can have radically different persuasion styles from each other, or from the presenters. A room full of sales people is more likely to be aligned with each other and a sales manager presenter on persuasion style than an audience of mixed roles and professions, however, a room full of social workers is less likely to be aligned in persuasion style with a CFO presenter (for instance). 

With this in mind, the trick is to craft your event and event presentations with subtle appeal to ALL FOUR persuasion styles. Even if you're not looking to overtly sell something or convince people to change--you are looking for buy-in on your information; a reason for people to listen. 

Four-point Persuasion Plan: 

For every presentation, include the following 4 elements:
  1. Facts: What something is, how it's going to work, and what you KNOW to be true about the effects. 
  2. Case Studies: Success stories of how something has worked before with peers or in other organizations.
  3. Plans: Detail on how something will be implemented--from front to back. 
  4. Relevance: How the implementation will make their life better/make them a star. What it will look like in the future when it's successful.

The 4 Stages of Learning that MUST take place at your event

In order for anyone to learn anything--from riding a bike to building a rocket to learning a new sales process--they need to go through the four stages of learning: Preparation, Presentation, Practice, and Performance.

 Most sales meetings focus on the Presentation stage exclusively... but without addressing the other 3 areas, your content will not be retained. 

See what happens when you account for some--and not ALL--of the 4 stages of learning at your event:


7 Event Truths: #7: Audiences only care about themselves.

Wrapping up our 7 Event Truths series with the final truth:

To mitigate this:

See all the 7 Event Truths here.

7 Event Truths: #6: Adults are kids in big bodies.

Our next installment in our popular 7 Event Truths series:

And to mitigate this:

Keep an eye out for more of the 7 Event Truths here.

7 Event Truths: #5: All events produce an outcome.

Next in the series of 7 event truths:

And to mitigate this:
Keep an eye out for more of the 7 Event Truths here.

7 Event Truths #4: Jan Brady was right.

The fourth in our popular 7 Event Truths series:

To mitigate this:

Keep an eye out for more of the 7 Event Truths here.

7 Event Truths: #3: Not everyone buys into your argument.

The third in our popular 7 Event Truths series:
 Here's how to mitigate this:
Keep an eye out for more of the 7 Event Truths here.

7 Event Truths: #2: Wandering minds are not a form of exercise.

Over the next few weeks we'll be re-posting our popular 7 Event Truths series--now in postcard-form for easy sharing. Time for event truth #2: 

Here's how to mitigate this:
Keep an eye out for more of the 7 Event Truths here.

7 Event Truths: #1: You had the best meeting they'll never remember.

Years of experience producing brain-based events has led us to discover 7 uncomfortable event truths. For the next few weeks we'll be re-posting these 7 event truths--now in bite-size postcard form--plus strategies for how to mitigate some of these issues.

The first truth:

Here's how to mitigate this:

Keep an eye out for more of the 7 Event Truths here

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