Are You Prepared for Generation Z?

You can’t throw a stick these days without reading something about Millennials, but what about the newest generation; Generation Z? Gen Z is what we are calling those born from 1995 to the present and beyond. The oldest of this generation are going into their twenties, so it’s time to start paying attention!

Sparks & Honey, an ad agency out of New York, recently gathered some juicy data on Generation Z and provided us with excellent insight into this new group that will be heading to our trade shows and conferences very soon. First and most important point: Gen Z is very different from Millennials. They were born into the digital age and spent much of their life in the great recession. Both factors color nearly everything about this group.

Generation Z is out to change the world. They currently make up over a quarter of our population and are still growing. Undoubtedly, they are going to have a big impact and trade show, expo, and conference organizers are going to have to adapt—big time.

Change in How You Deliver Education

Generation Z schooling puts an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork, and they are more self-directed than their predecessors. They also have short attention spans and prefer snackable content. Education is important to them, and they value experts. However, their education does not just take place in the classroom. Much of this generation’s education has taken place online.

As much as they value experts, Gen Z also wants to participate and have a voice. These kids are already giving TED talks that are getting between three and five million views. They are a generation that is very into live-streaming and co-creation of content.

Organizers will have to adapt their educational programming to meet Generation Z’s needs. While an expert can still present sessions, they will have to be more participatory for this group. Gen Z is not going to be satisfied just sitting back and listening.

Live-streaming will no longer be a luxury, it will be expected. Generation Z has lived their life online, and their social world spans the globe. They do not buy into the idea that face-to-face is the best way to communicate and network. Many feel more comfortable socializing via the Internet.

Your Organization’s Role in the Greater Good

Twenty-six percent of Gen Z kids over sixteen are currently volunteering in some capacity. Social entrepreneurship is one of the most popular career choices. The impact we have on the planet is a major concern for them, thought their biggest concern (80 percent surveyed) is the economy.

This is a generation that is going to expect you to have a charitable component to your event. They will show up and participate in charitable activities, so be prepared. They are not going to be satisfied with taking the easy road to greening your event. They are going to be watching everything you do.

They are also going to be concerned about the money they spend when attending your event. You may just find that your expensive room blocks are sitting empty in favor of options like Airbnb.

Changing Up the Exhibit Hall

Generation Z is a generation of entrepreneurs. Sixty-one percent of high-school students prefer entrepreneurial endeavors over being an employee. Thirty-eight percent feel they will invent something that will change the world. They also know they have to work hard to achieve their goals. Three percent already own their own business.

Trade show and expo organizers need to start thinking about how they will accommodate this group on the show floor. Entrepreneurs are not going to stand for, nor will they be able to afford, current space rental fees, expensive drayage and high prices for vacuuming carpets.

If they are, in fact, changing the world, wouldn’t it stand to reason that you would want to accommodate them? Perhaps it’s finally time to look at the show floor and create something that is more accessible and collaborative.

Adapting Your Marketing

Generation Z is a generation of diversity, and gender does not define them. They speak in emoticons and emoji. They communicate with pictures. Twitter and Facebook participation is falling in favor of Instagram and Tumbler.

To reach this group, you will have to adapt your marketing. How are you representing this generation visually? Are you showing a diverse population that defies gender stereotypes? Are you relying on lengthy email communications and newsletters?

It’s time to start thinking about short bursts of content and more visual content on the platforms they like to use. And as much as it may pain you, you may have to start speaking emoji :) .

Upping Your Technology Game

Generation Z was practically born with technology in their hands. They have grown up in a 4D world. To them, your Tweetwall is just not that exciting. Your event app is not fascinating; these are things they will expect to have standard. They would rather give up their allowance than give up their Internet. This uber-connected group is not going to tolerate spotty Wi-Fi.

Let’s not forget they’ve also grown up when the news headlines were all about NSA security issues. As a result, they don’t want to be tracked. These teens are turning off geolocation, and 25 percent of them left Facebook in 2014, likely because they’re uncomfortable with the data collection policies. They are drawn to anonymous apps like SnapChat.

Not only will you need to be transparent with how you are using the data you collect at the show, but also you will need to give Gen Z attendees control of their preference settings. This is a group that will pay attention to an opt-out option, and if it’s an all or nothing choice, they will likely choose to opt-out.

Personally, I think this is all good news, and these changes will be good for our industry. What is not to love about events that are more inclusive, more charitable, more environmentally conscious and reach more of the world?

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