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Engage Attendees at Every Age

July 25, 2018 // Insights

Three Ways to Engage Attendees at Every Age

By Rachel Portela, Vice President of Production for metroConnections

Today’s business economy brings together five distinct generations – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and the up-and-coming Gen Z’ers – collaborating and co-working all at once. It’s an issue nearly every industry is facing, but beyond just working together, many event managers are finding difficulties engaging the varying ages during meetings, conferences and events.

When planning an event, we may have an idea of audience demographics ahead of time, but sometimes we walk in blindly. Not only do we not know which generation or age group we’ll be catering to, we’re also tasked with offering different presentation concepts and solutions that speak to the diversity of the audience while forcing people to think differently and consider other perspectives.

As you work to create content for an event with unpredictable age demographics, there are three key things to keep in mind.

  1. Use a mix of modern technology and “old-school” methods to bridge the age gap.
    When polling attendees after a session or conference, consider an app-based survey, email survey, or even a piece of paper with written questions. Sure, the paper method involves more data entry on the planner’s end, but it will give you the feedback you need from more technology-resistant populations. Using this data, no matter the retrieval method, will help you develop topics throughout the conference and see how the audience is responding in real-time.

    Another straightforward way to bridge a technology gap is to offer paper handouts as takeaways in addition to digital versions, such as via a conference app or microsite. Paper handouts aren’t the most “green” solution, but if you’ll need to weigh this against other priorities. Ideally, electronic versions all around make for less waste and improve time efficiency.

  2. Diversify your speakers and test your content.Build panels with people who have diverse backgrounds and points of view. This could include two people from different political parties, a Millennial paired with a Baby Boomer, someone who has been with the company for five years and someone who has been with the company for 25 years, etc. Once you have your stellar line-up picked, test your content with focus groups of different ages. Ask your co-workers to give you feedback on content and presentation type.
  3. Keep it interactive.
    Captivate audiences by incorporating interactive elements in general sessions and breakouts. Consider asking attendees to text in a question or answer a live poll. Everyone likes to be heard, and recognizing voices in a group setting is a great way to solicit engagement. Additionally, all generations have competitive spirits, and many “old” game shows are being revitalized today. Incorporate elements of a game show during a program to keep audiences engaged, both with the program and with each other.

    Another subtle touch to keep audiences’ attention is switching up music from session to session – classic rock for one, and current Top 40 hits for another.

Keeping these ideas and suggestions in mind will make for an engaged, attentive audience no matter the age or generation. Here’s to stronger cross-generational collaboration!

For more information, please email us at
Engage at Every Age by Rachel Portela first appeared in Midwest Meetings, Summer 2018 Issue, page 16.

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