According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people born between 1980 and the mid-2000s form the largest generation in the U.S. This so called “Generation Y” represents around one-third of the total U.S. population. Globally, Gen Y makes up roughly 25% of the world population. Most members are in their early thirties, in the beginning stages of their careers and are starting to play an active role in shaping the workforce and the economy.
So what, right? That’s the natural progression of things; the way it’s always been. What makes the coming of age of this generation so different from any other? The answer’s in your pocket.
Can You Hear Me Now?
If you’re a Gen X kid like me, you probably remember when cell phones first made their debut in the early 90’s. You probably also remember wondering why anyone besides super important business people would need a phone away from home? For Gen Y (or Millennials, if you prefer), there were no such questions. As the first generation who had regular computer access at school, exposure to DVDs, MP3s, Internet, Social Media, smart phones etc., Generation Y has grown up in a significantly more visual and connected culture.
“Millennials have been shaped by technology” – this is one of the 15 Economic Facts About Millennials that have been identified by the Council of Economic Advisers for the Whitehouse in October 2014. Their interaction with technology is much different compared to previous generations and this “seems to have affected their expectations for creativity and innovation in their own work lives.” Beyond that, widespread access to technology and the Internet has shaped the way Millennials communicate and interact off the clock, as well. “Millennials use social media more frequently and are even more likely to sleep near their cell phone.”
Being connected is not just limited to the virtual world though. As the report reveals, Millennials “value the role they play in their communities.” They want to contribute to society and aim at being leaders. It’s only natural then, that this emphasis on technology and connection would affect the expectations that Millennials have for events and the way they behave at them.
The Millennial Attendee
In a study conducted for the Amsterdam RAI, the ‘real experience’ when visiting an exhibition has been recognized as essential for Millennial attendees. “In addition to acquiring information, they want to be actively involved before, during and after the exhibition. Participation, co-creation and being able to improve and develop themselves are vital to Generation Y and they also want to be certain that a visit will be worth their while.”
This is a call to action for organizers to rethink the content of their event and offer event formats that allow attendees to give feedback and receive it from others. Organizers should also assume that Millennial attendees will make use of their mobile devices to record content and share their experience with the outside world. Having a plan in place to facilitate that process and capitalize on the marketing potential is key.