The Z: Interactive Strategies for Engaging Gen Z Attendees This New Year
The Z: Interactive Strategies for Engaging Gen Z Attendees This New Year
The new year guarantees change, whether it be personal or professional.
As we look toward the unpredictable future of what 2024 will bring, one thing we are guaranteed to face is continuously evolving workplace dynamics, alongside shifting expectations and preferences of the workforce. For everyone from managers to meeting planners hoping for a successful 2024, it’s essential to stay attuned to the needs of the newest generation entering the professional arena: Gen Z.
With their unique social characteristics and digital fluency, Gen Z brings a fresh perspective to the meetings and events industry, and while their creative ideas are often celebrated and welcomed, understanding how to approach an entirely new era of meetings and events can be intimidating, especially when it comes to working with a generation known for challenging the norm.
What tactics should you consider implementing for a successful year working with Gen Z?
Luke Goetting, an award-winning communications expert and founder of Puffingston Presentations, an Austin, Texas-based creative consultancy, specializes in crafting engaging, interactive experiences for audiences around the world. As a Millennial company leader, Goetting coaches Gen Z employees on how to maximize their effectiveness at work and consults with clients aiming to inspire Gen Z.
His expertise has helped him learn and develop invaluable tactics for navigating the challenges and opportunities of working with Gen Z, fostering a collaborative and productive environment that aligns with the expectations of this tech-savvy and socially conscious generation. From virtual meeting etiquette to leveraging innovative technologies, here are some tips from Goetting that can help you make the most of the coming year with Gen Z at events.
Tips for Hosting Gen Z Attendees
In recent years, the meetings and events industry has experienced undeniable innovation, and how we host and plan meetings and events continues to shift depending on a variety of factors. One factor always high on the list of things to consider when planning is who exactly you are planning for.
Keeping attendees intrigued and engaged is a top priority for any planner, but as more young professionals join the industry, exactly how to keep these fast-paced individuals engaged becomes a greater challenge, especially considering how short Gen Z’s average attention span can be (a whopping 1.3 seconds!).
“The traditional event context is very passive,” Goetting said. “The most energetic thing you do is when you walk between meeting rooms. That’s when you get some blood flowing, when you go to the restroom, maybe you grab a bagel to eat. That shouldn’t be the case for these really amazing assemblies of professionals from around the world.”
Make Presentations Interactive
When it comes to Gen Z, a traditional 60-minute lecture-style presentation with room for one or two questions at the end is the last thing they want to sit through. Instead, it’s all about prioritizing interactive experiences that make the audience a part of something greater and give attendees the opportunity to connect with each other.
“No. 1 is interactivity. How can we craft more interactive, engaging experiences? And I do believe those pretty much go hand in hand,” Goetting said. “One thing I like to do is look back and say there were—as frustrating as it was, especially for meeting planners—all these virtual experiences during the pandemic. There were some really cool things around interactivity.
“For example, the humble chat was a way for attendees to have a parallel conversation around the content with other people who are experiencing it simultaneously,” Goetting continued. “And most of the chats that I sat in on were active. We’re talking hundreds, sometimes thousands of messages over the course of a 30- to 60-minute talk.”
When it comes to in-person events though, that chat functionality has largely been dropped, but there exists “almost unlimited ways to achieve it and unlimited tech to achieve it,” Goetting said.
During the pandemic, chats became a way for people to participate and stay more engaged, but during most in-person events, the option is no longer available to them.
“Most event apps have a chat-based functionality built into them, so don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to,” Goetting said.
[Related: The Z: Planning for the Gen Z Attendee]
Use Audience Participation Tools
A number of audience participation tools, like Slido and Mentimeter, also have Q&A options. Sometimes during his presentations, Goetting will opt to supplement the chat with an upvoted Q&A. Using an event app or a supplemental tool, users can see their fellow attendees’ questions come in during presentations. Then, each user can upvote which questions rise to the top of the Q&A list and the app starts to prioritize questions based on which receive the most upvotes.
“When I present, I look at my app and I see this top question has 20 upvotes. People want to know the answer to this,” Goetting said. “Let’s say I only have 10 minutes of this very precious moment, the only time these assembling people are probably ever going to be together again. Let’s make sure those two or three questions I can answer during that time are the questions that are most pressing to the most amount of people. None of that is earth-shattering from a tech perspective, but it changes the dynamic so significantly.”
Functions like this also emphasize the power of anonymity, especially for young professionals who may not have found the confidence to use their voice just yet and are afraid to ask questions they may think will make them sound underqualified or unprofessional.
Restructure Traditional Presentation Styles
Another way to keep attendees focused and engaged is to rethink the structure of presentations.
“Try to model it more like a radio show or a podcast,” Goetting suggests. “I know it’s kind of an old-school reference, but radio shows have three to four breaks every hour. It’s kind of every 13 to 15 minutes. And there’s a science behind that related to reconnecting and re-engaging following the commercial break or a sponsor break.”
The segmenting of time is proven to re-engage people, Goetting said, and it all comes down to the psychology behind brain patterns. Typically, it’s during the middle portion of a presentation that people tend to become distracted, especially when there’s no interactive component involved.
“It’s just hard to stay focused for that long,” Goetting said. “I personally like to make sure I don’t ever talk more than 15 minutes in a row before taking some questions or talking to my co-host or panelist or whomever, because it just helps people to stay with you the entire time. Even the greatest speakers have a difficult time keeping people’s attention for more than 20 minutes.”
Our ever-evolving industry demands that adaptation and innovation are key to success, and by embracing the unique qualities and preferences of Generation Z, managers and meeting planners can create new and exciting experiences for all employees and attendees, no matter what generation they are a part of.
More from Luke Goetting
In this Meetings Today Podcast for Taylor Smith's "The Z: Planning for the Industry's Next Generation," Smith sits down with Luke Goetting for a deep dive into his expertise surrounding successful initiatives for fostering collaborative and productive environments for incoming professionals. Listen now to learn more:
As we begin 2024 armed with insights and strategies to engage this tech-savvy and forward-thinking generation, let’s collectively look forward to a year filled with collaborative successes and meaningful connections.
Here’s to a new year of growth, learning and unparalleled achievements with Gen Z by our side!
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.