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No boring speakers for Generation Y, says Davidson

Former lecturer explores what the youngest conference delegates want from the events industry

Pictured: Rob Davidson

Event planners need to modernise the traditional congress format if they want to attract attendees from Generation Y.

"More research is required but one thing we know for sure is that the classic event programme will not satisfy them," says industry analyst Rob Davidson of the next generation of conference delegates.

Instead of lengthy talks from 'boring speakers', Davidson, an event management lecturer who launched consultancy MICE Knowledge at the end of August, says future meetings need to become more interactive to appeal to Gen Y-ers.  

Speaking at CONVENE in Vilnius, Lithuania, Davidson told the audience: "I think this is probably the most important challenge for our industry today, because Generation Y is growing very, very fast."

By 2020, three-quarters of the working population will have been born between 1977 and 1994 and then, adds Davidson, "the world will be determined by the tastes and preferences and choices of Generation Y".

He said conferences for this generation need to be interactive and interesting - boring speakers just won't cut it. "Gen Y likes choice, likes options and likes to be asked for their opinion. They expect to be involved - modern conferences for Gen Y are much more interactive," explained Davidson, who recommended consulting younger attendees in advance on the destination and even the speakers.

"It is going to be a very different future if you are a boring speaker because Gen Y will not tolerate boring speakers. They have realised that life is too short.

"Gen Y will leave the room if the speakers are boring, and they want short presentations - they think 'give us 20 minutes and then let us speak to each other about what the speaker has said'. That is the 21st century way of running conferences: let the delegates speak about what the speaker has said, and then tell the speaker what they want them to talk about. Modern conferences give you much more opportunity to connect."

When it comes to communicating with Gen Y-ers ahead of events, Davidson advised planners to "use as few words as possible" (ideally no longer than a text message) and include as many strong images as they could, but to keep communication frequent. He added: "It won't be too difficult to get Gen Y to come to conferences, if you can teach them something new."

And don't skimp on the event website: "Gen Y judge your event by the quality of your website," he said. "Get a Gen Y person to check your website - they will soon tell you if there is a problem."

He also advised that corporate social responsibility (CSR) has a big role to play in satisfying the younger generation when it comes to congresses and incentives, explaining: "CSR is about much more than simply green conferences - it is thinking about the people at the destination. In some ways, it is an antidote to conspicuous consumption."

Davidson stepped down from his role at University of Greenwich last year to concentrate on more research and training for the meetings and events industry, though he continues to teach regularly in France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. 

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