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The Z: Planning for the Gen Z Attendee

February 26, 2023
The Z: Planning for the Gen Z Attendee

There’s a mystery to Gen Z that I think even we as members of the generation can’t quite figure out for ourselves.

We are self-driven, fiercely independent and full of ambition—at least on the inside, and for the most part, we’re aware of all our good. Sometimes, it feels like the world isn't. Unfortunately, what other generations tend to see when looking at Gen Z is a rare glimpse of our independence behind the curtains of sensitivity, authenticity and vulnerability that never seem to open to reveal the strength of the population behind them. 

the milwaukee skyline at night while out exploring after the day’s press trip activities
The Milwaukee skyline at night while out exploring after the day’s press trip activities

No matter what we do as a generation, those curtains are almost always closed.

It’s frustrating; How do you help others understand you when sometimes you don’t even understand yourself?

[Related: Introducing The Z: Planning for the Industry's Next Generation]

No matter what may make Gen Z harder to understand, it can’t be denied that technology and the rise of the digital era caused a generational gap between Gen Z and generations that didn’t grow up tapping touchscreens to talk to friends, and that generational gap has kept us from extending olive branches from generation to generation. In fact, it’s likely what causes the stereotypes and beliefs that seem to keep us apart.

That gap is only becoming increasingly more noticeable in the MICE world as Gen Z enters the industry as professionals in every sector, and it’s important to finally build a bridge to close the gap and plan for a new generation. Doing so starts with understanding the people who comprise Gen Z—their beliefs, values, morals and everything in between—to invite them into an industry known for being kind and welcoming. 

It’s time to start planning meetings and events with the Gen Z attendee in mind, and understanding their values is a good place to start.

The Sharing Generation 

As the industry actively makes efforts to improve DEI initiatives across every sector, Gen Z offers a population more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation. 

On track to be the most well-educated generation yet, we’re a group to save a seat at the table for, with intellectually diverse minds introducing new ideas for inclusivity that blossomed within our generation before any other. Also known as “The Sharing Generation,” we are willing and eager to share our ideas with the world as long as the world is willing to listen.

The souvenir I take home with me from every city I visit is a book from a local bookstore. The one above is Librairie Pantoute in Quebec City.
The souvenir I take home with me from every city I visit is a book from a local bookstore. The one above is Librairie Pantoute in Quebec City.

If you want to experience what The Sharing Generation has to share with you, ensuring that inclusivity is at the forefront of your meeting or event is crucial, and the resources available to help planners with DEI initiatives are plentiful, like Tourism Diversity Matters, the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals and the Event Industry Council’s Centre for Sustainability and Social Impact.

Gen Z doesn’t expect grand gestures or an agenda in which every element is tailored toward our population, but the likelihood that we choose to attend an event with diverse panels and guest speakers versus one lacking diversity is high. The Gen Z attendee will investigate whether an industry association is diverse in its leadership and internal teams and question a destination’s morals and values before deciding whether or not attending an event is right for them.

If DEI isn’t at the forefront of your event, Gen Z likely won’t feel comfortable attending. 

[Related: Key Results From the 2023 Meetings Today Trends Survey]

Experiment With Experiential

For Gen Z in the MICE industry, every single meeting, event, conference, convention and tradeshow we are invited to attend is an opportunity for a new adventure, a portal to worlds of more knowledge and a pool of diverse faces to authentically connect with and learn from. There is almost too much to take advantage of, and in my own personal experience, the opportunities can become magically overwhelming. 

My coworker’s hand on my shoulder snaps me back to reality when my eager Gen Z attitude needs a reminder to take it down a notch while attending meetings and events, especially those with experiential design activations or new hands-on technology to try. There’s never enough time for me to experience and take advantage of everything one meeting or event has to offer. 

There’s even less time to explore the destination said meeting or event brought me to, likely for the first time in my life, and I want to see, learn and do all that I possibly can to feel like I made the entire experience “worth it.” 

[Related: How ChatGPT Will Impact the Meetings and Events Industry]

Time for Touring and Traveling

Exploring Old Quebec City during designated free time on my agenda
Exploring Old Quebec City during designated free time on my agenda

According to statistics reported by Hotelmize, the AI-driven travel technology company, and car-sharing company Avail, I’m not alone in my desire to explore. Surveys and studies report Gen Z travels an average of 29 days per year, and nearly half of us consider travel a top priority. In fact, 65% of us consider traveling and seeing the world the most important way to spend our money. In 2022, we planned to spend more money on travel than any other generation, with 72% of us planning to spend the same or more on new adventures throughout the year.

For most Gen Z attendees, your meeting or event is an opportunity to see new parts of the world—places we never imagined we would ever get to see, and what makes attending a meeting or event “worth it” to Gen Z includes growth both professionally and personally.

A Gen Z-friendly agenda includes more than one-on-one meetings, networking and doing business. Once those valuable and educational tasks are checked off the list, the adventure continues for us as we typically choose to explore more of the destination we have yet to uncover. That adventure, however, typically ends in a restaurant, bar or other social setting for older generations. We can catch up over cocktails anywhere, but I may never walk the winding narrow streets of Quebec City or take a VIP tour of Universal Studios ever again, and I’m thankful for every minute I spend outside the hotel and inside local storefronts. 

[Related: On the Scene: 24 Hours with Universal Orlando]

One goal of mine is to visit a local bookstore in every destination I visit and purchase a book as a souvenir from the city.

So, in planning for the Gen Z attendee, keep in mind that many of us will prioritize exploring a new place over getting enough sleep, and consider keeping free time on your meeting itinerary to ensure that your Gen Z attendees are getting all the sleep and adventure we need. (Your other attendees will appreciate the free time, too!) 

Leave Room to Learn New Lessons

The local bookstore I found and visited while exploring Milwaukee
The local bookstore I found and visited while exploring Milwaukee

At the center of Gen Z’s values is our constant search for authentic, meaningful and impactful experiences, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to learn and grow independently. The value of the adventures we seek becomes clear when we ultimately use the knowledge gained from these experiences to make our own informed decisions—the feeling of fierce independence. 

Nearly 90% of Gen Z rate a college education as valuable, according to a Barnes & Noble College report, and a genuine love for learning is evident in our ambition and constant search for new challenges and opportunities to experience and learn something new. This constant desire for change is sometimes detrimental, for both ourselves and others, as loyalty tends to look a bit different to Gen Z than other generations.

Our need for meaningful and impactful experiences creates a desire to seek and create change—maybe in the form of taking a new career path, going back to school to study something new or up and moving to a new city—but our change-making can be seen as threatening and unreliable behavior, especially when it comes to hiring Gen Z employees. We offer fresh new ideas, but are our curious and creative minds worth the risk of short-term solutions?

Only time will tell, and the time for the meetings and events industry to see what Gen Z can offer is now.

Logging out with love,
Taylor

Have a question about Gen Z or a topic you’d like to learn more about? Share your thoughts with Taylor at taylor.smith@meetingstoday.com, on Instagram @taywritesalot or on Twitter at @taywrites.

 

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. 

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About the author
Taylor Smith | Content Developer, Destinations and Features

Taylor Smith joined Stamats in May 2022 as a content developer, destinations and features for Meetings Today. Smith has experience covering everything from travel to breaking news and graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in news and magazine journalism. Previously, she’s written for St. Louis Magazine and worked as an editorial assistant and apprentice for Aubree Nichols, who has been published in premier publications such as The New York TimesELLE and The Los Angeles Times.