Introducing The Z: Planning for the Industry's Next Generation
The Z: Planning for the Industry's Next Generation
I was born 17 days before the new millennium, and telephones were still attached to walls with the swirly cords I got my fingers stuck in far too often.
Barely a ‘90s baby, I’m one of the older members of Gen Z, whose birthdays fall between 1997-2012. I watched Disney movies on VHS tapes and took my kindergarten photo on a Polaroid camera, but I had an iPod by the age of 10.
The oldest of us were born with the digital era, too young to grow up with iPads in front of our car seats but old enough to remember the first time we used an Apple product. Growing up during a time when a new iPhone model was announced every time we blew out our birthday candles opened Gen Z up to a wealth of knowledge and information that seemingly reached no limit, and our ability to access it had no restrictions.
It was a good thing, because learning was easier than ever before. In fact, we’re on track to be the best-educated generation yet, according to the Pew Research Center, but then came the realization that maybe we were online and accessing too much.
Data showed our mental health on a decline compared to generations before us, with more than two in five members of Gen Z having a diagnosed mental health condition, the most common being anxiety. Quickly, our growing up alongside the digital era became a bad thing, both for us and previous generations, and technology became the scapegoat on which the world put the blame.
While we have and continue to struggle to understand ourselves and the world we live in, members of Gen Z are stereotyped as lazy, sensitive and impatient. Gen Z gets a bad rap for asking for a lot, expecting it immediately and doing little to earn it, and many believe technology is to blame. We are hard to please, unhappy with what we are given, and self-absorbed, which makes us hard to work with—at least that’s what the internet says.
But the truth is, Gen Z may just be misunderstood. Perhaps our sensitivity comes from learning too much too fast, our impatience from receiving everything all at once and our laziness from our record-breaking levels of depression—a side effect of the many experiences we’ve lived through so far.
Maybe it’s because of these experiences that we’re also seen as the most understanding and accepting generation—welcoming of anyone and everyone for all that they are and want to be—but we remain one of the hardest to understand. Our ambition and drive are threatening, our so-called “laziness” turns employers off and our constant “dissatisfaction” in our environments makes us hard to please. We supposedly welcome everyone, and sometimes it feels like we aren’t welcome anywhere at all.
But that doesn’t mean the incoming wave of Gen Z will break before crashing to shore, and the best way to prepare yourself isn’t to run, but to let it wash over you. There’s a lot left for us to learn, but there’s a lot you can learn from us, too—that’s why we are launching this monthly column.
As Gen Z trickles into the meetings and events industry as planners, attendees, hospitality executives, destination representatives, speakers, educators and more, I’d like to help you welcome them with open arms through my own experience as a Gen Z member of the industry myself. And, if you’re like me, let’s figure the industry out together, one column at a time.
Whether you’re unsure how to incorporate more technology into your event for Gen Z attendees, hoping to better understand Gen Z values like DEI and mental health awareness, or simply trying to figure life out as a member of Gen Z like myself, “The Z” exists to be your guide.
Here’s to the future. Let’s work together to make it bright.
Logging out with love,
Mission Statement: "The Z: Planning for the Industry’s Next Generation" is a Meetings Today column discussing the meetings and events industry’s newest and youngest members—the incoming Generation Z. Written by Meetings Today’s Taylor Smith, a member of Gen Z herself, The Z explores how to welcome, work with, understand and plan for the industry’s next wave of professionals while serving as a guide for members of Gen Z themselves, planners and attendees alike.