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What Tomorrow’s Leaders Want—but Aren’t Getting—from Today’s Meetings

A new U.K. study finds some disconnects between what Millennials value in meetings and what conference organizers offer.

Career development opportunities are a key motivator for 80 percent of people considering whether or not to attend a meeting, according to a recent study. Meeting organizers, however, did not rate this as a highly motivating factor.

This was just one of several disconnects discovered by Loughborough University and Imago Venues, both based in the U.K., when they asked 430 university students and current meeting participants about their meeting experiences.

Another big disconnect: Students and current delegates said they wanted to learn from experts, build relationships with peers, gain knowledge that will give them a career edge, and, particularly for students, to get to know potential employers. In short, they want it to be all about them. For organizers, though, the priority more often is on achieving the host organization’s vision and goals than those of its participants. That may be why, according to a white paper outlining the survey results, “few delegates think that their employer really invests in them with the meetings they organize.”

To be considered valuable by Millennials, “a meeting has to focus on what the delegate wants to achieve, not the organization.” For the student respondents, that means making them feel that they are involved in the content. They want to be inspired and build their confidence and leadership skills, not just learn tasks or information about the company’s vision. When it comes to speakers, they value passion and enthusiasm more highly than expertise.

To make meetings more relevant for tomorrow’s leaders, the white paper recommendations include:

  • Keep sessions short and relevant, and include a lot of opportunity for peer-to-peer interaction and ways to build relationships that will help participants grow their careers.
  • Don’t use technology just because it will let you gamify your content and make it more interactive. Yes, Millennials like interactive games and new technology—77 percent of students said so—but it has to also be relevant to the content and to what their goals are for attending. Games should include awards and certificates for achievement.
  • Use off-site venues that help delegates focus and avoid distraction.
  • Don’t just push out information via social media. It is a good way to raise awareness about your meeting, but “engagement is key and sharable content that raises awareness of key issues has a much wider impact with Millennials.”
  • Speakers should interact with the audience and use storytelling to both convey content and engage the audience. “Feeling involved is very important to Millennials. Taking something positive away from the session, by being part of the content, strengthens the feeling that it has been about investing in them and their own personal development.”

The white paper concludes, “We need to have a stronger collective approach, as an industry, to the objectives of meetings and events; to recognize both the objectives of the organizer and the delegate and whether the delivery achieves both in equal measure. Otherwise, we are simply facilitators of a product and not the creators of inspiring experiences that we can and should be.”

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