There are a number of misconceptions floating around the hotel industry about our largest growing demographic: millennials. This stems from an overgeneralization of the key trends that they have brought to the forefront of our industry. Millennials, generally categorized as those born between 1980 to 1995, are a maturing group that prizes the use of technology for efficiency and ease of doing business. This is why it may come as a surprise to many that millennials actually prefer face-to-face meetings and events just as much, if not more, than previous generations.
Millennials consider networking a key factor in one’s professional growth. In today’s competitive job market, a college education often does not translate directly into job opportunities, so millennials have taken it upon themselves to expand their network and create these opportunities. Self-education is another big reason events are becoming increasingly more attractive. Learning industry-specific information from a professional speaking at these events can help one gain the knowledge needed to give an applicant a competitive advantage in an interview. As such, meeting and events need to remain attractive to this demographic for continued success.
So let’s get the obvious out of the way: technology. If you want meeting or event space to stand out to millennials, then ensure that technology is up-to-date. This includes good-quality, high-speed Wi-Fi, projectors that do not require bloaty software downloads to connect to them and numerous power outlets that are easily accessible. If a VGA cable is the only method of connecting a laptop to a projector, then we have a problem. Meeting planners should make sure hoteliers are checking equipment to guarantee functionality and that they have a thorough understanding of how it works. If equipment is not easy to use, hoteliers should invest in upgrading it as soon as possible because prices have gone down considerably over the years.
Food and beverage can also be a huge selling point for a potential millennial client. Gone are the days where frozen foods are acceptable (though they never should have been). Quality product is expected at every dining occasion. Healthy options are also prized among the millennial demographic. While comfort foods are still appreciated, ensure that a venue’s food and beverage team is keeping up with the latest healthy living trends and adjusting their menus accordingly.
When millennials are looking for the right place to attend meetings and events, the destination as a whole is a high contributing factor in their decision-making process. Does the hotel have a hip bar to grab a happy hour drink after the meeting? Because networking is everything to millennials, it’s important to highlight any amenity that promotes it, even if it is not necessarily relevant to the meeting or event. Millennials work hard, but they also like to play hard. If the host hotel is limited on amenities, then provide information on the local area and anything that could be attractive to a first-time visitor.
In this highly competitive market, meeting planners as well as their hotel partners need to consider these differentiators that can be game changers for today’s millennial:
- Non-traditional spaces as opposed to meeting rooms
- The willingness to move furniture around to create flexibility
- Digital dry-erase boards that can be connected to a laptop
- Local food and authentic cuisine that does not mirror standard hotel fare
- The use of audience polling and real-time analytics
- Participating in an activity that benefits the local community
While some of the overgeneralizations about millennials have roots that are true, we need to do our best to avoid assumptions when it comes to this generation. The common fear that this tech-savvy generation will lead to a decline in meetings and events is simply not true. Live video streaming may have built upon what video meetings first brought to the table, but nothing will ever replace genuine human interaction.