Virtual Events for Multi-Generational Audiences
“I’m speaking for all of us. I’m the spokesman for a generation.” – Bob Dylan
Usually when people talk about “diversity” in the workforce, the focus is on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, sexual orientation or other ways that people identify and classify themselves. But one of the most important types of “diversity” in today’s workplace relates to the age cohort in which you were born – the “generation” in which you belong. Today’s workforce is more multigenerational than ever before, with Gen Z’s (born between 1997–today), Millennials (born between 1981-1996), Gen Xers (born in early 1960s – 1980), and Baby Boomers (born from 1945 – early 1960s) all working and collaborating together.
Although it’s always hard to generalize, and we don’t want to stereotype people, there are certain key life experiences, communication styles and work preferences that people of the same generation tend to share. The era in which we are born helps to shape our assumptions about the world and our goals in life. Just as managers are learning to build effective multigenerational teams in the workforce, virtual events planners are beginning to grasp the “intergenerational implications” of using virtual events.
Here are a few key tips to keep in mind to make your next virtual event accessible and engaging for audiences of all generations:
- Offer multiple communication styles and formats: There are a few key communication preferences that tend to apply to the various generations. For example, Baby Boomers often prefer face-to-face communication and in-person meetings, while Gen Xers are more likely to communicate via e-mail. Millennials and Gen Z’s, the youngest and in many ways most tech-savvy generations, are often most comfortable communicating via short e-mails, text messages and social media. Keep in mind that if you have a diverse audience in terms of age range, offer a range of communication options so that anyone can feel comfortable contributing to the conversation. Use virtual event game dynamics to drive interaction and get people talking – everyone loves winning prizes and working as a team toward a common goal. Design a hybrid virtual event to create in-person networking opportunities in addition to the online activity – many Baby Boomers might appreciate the chance to speak in person rather than strictly interacting online.
- Provide ample training and guidance but let people “opt out:” People from different generations tend to have different comfort levels with learning new technology. It helps to provide plenty of assistance to make sure your audience knows how to operate within the environment of the virtual event – whether it’s a virtual event training guide or a detailed tutorial, or an interactive and intelligent AI Assistant to answer questions that guests have during the event, or all of the above. However, even as you provide this training and guidance to your virtual event attendees, remember that not everyone wants or needs the same level of support. Millennials and Gen Z’s in particular are “virtual natives” who have grown up using computers or tablets and tend to quickly navigate new technologies; they won’t want to sit through a highly detailed tutorial that’s keeping them from the “main event.”
- Choose the right virtual events platform: Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone when planning a virtual event. If you work with a virtual events platform provider like Social27, they will know how to design an ideal virtual event that addresses every segment of your audience, from every generation. The best virtual events platform providers will give you a variety of features and offer a certain savvy in how to create a unique, interactive experience that maximizes the virtual event environment as a medium of communication.
- Sync up with social media: Social media is the native language of both the Millennial and Gen Z generation. If you want your virtual event to truly take on a life of its own, you need to connect what’s happening within the “walls” of your virtual event with the larger conversation and community on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. A solid virtual event social media strategy can help you acquire attendees before your virtual event, generate stronger engagement during the virtual event and consolidate lasting relationships after the virtual event is over.
Due to generational differences in preferred work styles, communication styles and varying comfort levels with technology, there are often differences in how Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Z’s engage with virtual events. However, this does not need to deter your organization from using virtual events. With the advanced virtual events platforms and easy-to-use tools available today, it is easier than ever before to create virtual events that are accessible and intuitive for audiences from every generation.
Join the conversation. Agree with me? Good. Disagree? Even Better! Tell me why…
What have been the biggest “generational challenges” (or opportunities) that your organization has encountered when planning virtual events for multigenerational audiences? What specific features or design elements would you like to see included in a virtual events platform in order to accommodate the preferences of various age groups/generations?
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