Quit Engaging Millennials

The Odyssey Online

The Odyssey Online

Ah!  No!  We have to reach them – they’re a new market and critical to our success as a (event, business, venue, etc…)!

Stop. It.

For all the talk, print, and news that has worried employers, other generations, and the general populace like no other, the entire idea of “engaging millennials” has gone far enough.  Instead of fretting over this seemingly impossible task, why not take a step back and understand what it is that makes “Generation Y” - or whatever term is being used this week to describe those individuals born from roughly 1977 to 1995?

They are a little different. They are very comfortable with technology and not as comfortable with certain types of social interaction.  

They came of age in a time where every bit of knowledge of the world was not buried in a library or a university, but accessible from a computer or a smartphone – and they have never not had those devices in their lives.  As a result, they have had the benefit of getting answers to any question quickly and easily and the ability to interact with others without actually meeting them physically. The result?



Collectively, they are deeply drawn to work and hobbies that promise self-direction, work-life balance, fulfillment and other benefits and perks that come across as entitled to older generations.  The trouble is, for many groups, especially social events, the ideologies are designed by baby boomers, or Generation X, and in some cases, they hold no appeal to the Millennials.

So, if you shouldn’t “engage” them, what do you do?  How can you adjust to the changing dynamic in your event to pique the interest of the next generation -  whatever you call them?  The fact of the matter is that if you ignore them or don’t learn what makes them “tick,” they may not feel drawn to your event.  

They might ask questions about why the goals are what they are. They may wonder why things are done the way they are. They may believe that certain tasks or structures are archaic and useless.

More importantly, they may be right.

By far, the most important thing you can do to engage this generation is to look inside your own event and clearly understand why it does the things it does and if it does them effectively.  To the Millennial mind, membership in a group opens doors immediately, not just after years of involvement.  Now, That’s not to say that this generation doesn’t understand the value of training or of seniority, but collectively, they want to see the “why” or the rationale of how Frank, at age 54, is better than Suzie, at age 29.  If Frank is actually better, then no problem.  On the other hand, if Suzie is better, then why is Frank “ahead” of her?  Simply because he got there first?  

They don’t like that.

Apprentice Personnel

Apprentice Personnel

By the same token, how can you show them that your group, your company, or your event is savvy enough for them to join?  Hit them where they live – online!  Make sure that you have a social sharing strategy for networking and at the same time, understand that this can be a slow process.  Think back to when you were starting out – for many of us, networking and trade groups were not high on the list of priorities.  The absence of Millennials in your roster is not necessarily a condemnation by Millennials.

So, don’t wring your hands and agonize over how to attract the next generation – wring your hands and agonize over why you have an event that isn’t attractive to them.  Look inside. Understand the missteps that may have taken place and engage those things, and the next generation will beat a path to your door.