3 Tips for Engaging Three Generations at Your Meetings and Events

Solving the puzzle of how to engage multiple generations, and their respective levels of experience, seniority and tech savvy, is not easy. Baby boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials are showing up to meetings and events with certain preferences and expectations, ranging from what food they want to eat, what speaker they want to see and which city they want to visit. While creating an event that appeals to everyone may appear daunting, the following tips will help you craft a meeting with multi-generational appeal.

• Keep boomers on the cutting edge.

Baby boomers have challenged the status quo from a young age. They've worked hard since they were 12 years old and don't plan to slow down any time soon. Too often, planners make the mistake of thinking boomers are averse to the latest and greatest or revolutionizing event structure, location or agenda. This competitive generation is the opposite! Ask any boomer the question, "Do you feel your age?" and chances are high they will respond with a resounding "no." Boomers are usually the ones most invested in conference apps, new learning styles and breakouts about how to navigate change. For a generation that doesn't plan to retire until much later in life, they're looking to conferences and events to keep their edge. Market new skills, tech and networking sessions where boomers can teach others while also learning.

• Anticipate Gen Xer skepticism and prove it.

By nature, Generation Xers are skeptical. When they were growing up, 24-hour news pulled back the curtain on every institution, and the stories that ensued were not altogether positive. From an early age, they learned to question everything and watch out for themselves. They're eager to move forward in their careers and attend conferences and events to build their resume of skills, but they need to know that time away from the family is worth it. Market the value, learned skills and networking opportunities that are unique to each event. If you don't, Xers might question why they are spending time away from the office or sacrificing valuable leisure time.

• Invite Millennials to use their voices before and during the event.

Millennials were encouraged by mom, dad, teacher and counselor to speak up from about the age of 6. From deciding where to go on vacation to what kind of family TV to buy to participating in collaboration sessions in the classroom, Millennials were taught that their voice matters. Today, however, many of them at work or attending events feel like their voice does not matter, and they end up checking out during sessions or no longer attending events year after year. Millennials are eager to learn, but inclusion is important. To get them excited about attending your event, ask for their input ahead of time via survey or conversation. At the event, have a Millennial on a panel discussion.

These are just a few ideas to keep multigenerational attendees engaged at events. What's coming next? In about five years, Generation Edge, the post-Millennials born after 1995, will be attending meetings. They're a self-reliant, entrepreneurial generation raised by honest Gen X parents. To engage this tech-innate group, they're going to expect speedy, interactive, high-tech conferences with healthy dining options.

Hannah Ubl is a generations consultant at BridgeWorks: The Generation People and speaker with the Goodman Speakers Bureau. She was the keynote speaker at M&C's inaugural Interact Southeast event, held April 13-16.