Millennials love expressing themselves online.
But when it comes to professional growth and the positive social change that can trickle from it, research shows that 80 percent of millennials feel there is no replacement for coming together. Combine this with a preference for multisensory broad-spectrum learning and shorter attention spans, and millennial event education can get complex really quickly. Below, we offer a few ideas for catering to the demand for education at events—millennial-style.
“Speed” educational sessions can answer millennials’ call for meaning and brevity. Consider adding one-on-one speed mentoring sessions with keynote speakers that give attendees control over their educational needs. Another plus: micro sessions are affordable and require only a few chairs and some food for thought.
Follow the Breadcrumbs
Educational messages that aren’t reinforced within an hour after their debut run a 50 percent risk of being forgotten by attendees, according to what psychologists refer to as “the forgetting curve.” Single-themed meetings and conferences can avoid this black hole by allowing time for peer-to-peer discussions around the topic, continuity of theme across different locations and multisensory experiences, interactive, incentivized social media sessions or even allowing attendees a platform for their own mini TEDx presentations, which facilitates knowledge-sharing, something millennials crave. Create content breadcrumbs throughout the event that keep the message front and center and allow millennials’ propensity for curiosity and collaboration do the rest.
Redefine the Tipping Point
Attendees will continue to follow the breadcrumbs long after the event ends—whether sitting in the airport, discussing on social media or heading back to the office to share what they have learned with colleagues. What used to be the proverbial end, i.e., shaking hands and saying goodbye at the end of the event, is not exactly where the journey ends for millennials. In fact, the “end” of an event often springboards into a new beginning across social media channels. This calls for a redefining of the tipping point, or the final action you want your attendees to take with your event content.
Harness a Participatory Culture
Experience and emotion form the foundation of memory and are supported by narrative and intensity, or the impact level of the stories we hear and tell. Add to this the millennial preference for experiences over things and it’s clear that evocative experiential education that places storytelling front and center is key to engaging this age group. In partnership with a leading cultural anthropologist, Michael Blatter, founder and CEO of the event design company Mirrorball, has categorized the 460 emotions currently recognized by psychologists into primary (e.g., empathy, affection, gratification, interest), core (kindness, courage, relief, euphoria) and target emotions (enthusiasm, amazement, gratitude, passion), the latter of which are the emotions we want to evoke in attendees.
Blatter identifies the behavioral objectives of attendees at events and then tosses the best emotions that can lead attendees to those behaviors to his creative design team. Moving this concept into event education, it could mean creating curiosity and adventure before the event even begins, hiring actors to play certain roles that evoke emotions, or surprising challenges (Blatter mentions a secret pillow fight room, a room with a folk singer and guitarist who wrote songs about attendees and pulling attendees into a “janitor’s closet” and having them go through old luggage where they’d find crazy clues and surprises in line with the event theme. The target emotions: intrigue, exhilaration and nostalgia).
More than any other generation, millennials have a burning desire to give back to the causes they care about in a hands-on way. Consider polling attendees on five of the causes they care about before the event and then bringing in local experts and community members for lifestyle or business tips. You can then orchestrate a meaningful experience built around those themes and local community issues: perhaps inspiring curiosity about them with school kids through an artistic medium, a community clean-up day, tree planting or beautifying of urban neighborhoods, reading to the elderly or creating long-term social outreach programs.