Originally featured on Corporate Meetings Network.
Why is there such a stigma around events hosted by associations? Why do association events somehow get classified as less glamourous than corporate events? Many young professionals may not yet know all of the benefits of joining a professional association in their field (networking opportunities, professional development, industry recognition, just to name a few), so hosting an amazing event is a great way to get their foot in the door.
Look at the Millennial stereotype – they’re tech-savvy, trendy, action-oriented, and understand that the world of work is changing rapidly. Some say this is the generation of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – and for that reason they’re out to have it all. Keeping that in mind, here are Redstone’s top 10 ways of attracting Millennials to association events:
- Trends on point – There are a LOT of events out there that offer similar things and boast the usual networking spiel. Stand out from the crowd and don’t be redundant – do something different, for each event, in order to ensure return attendees. There is no shortage of unique ideas that you can have at your events, from signature foods or cocktails, photo booths, or other memorable takeaways. The next few points offer some ideas.
- Creative spaces – Attract attendees by hosting your event at the newest and coolest venues, like a new restaurant or boutique hotel, rather than your average hotel ballroom or convention centre meeting room. Smaller and newer suppliers and venues recognize that association crowds offer opportunities to do business by word of mouth, so at these types of events they are often pulling out all of the stops in order to impress.
- Tech trends – Be on the forefront. If you can show attendees one thing they’ve never seen before, you’ll increase the chance that they’ll be talking about it post-event. Research some of the upcoming onsite tech trends fueling that FOMO again. Weave buzzwords in a meaningful way into your marketing: Millennial, innovation, Big Data, Internet of Things. Social media is an absolute must, so that attendees can use your Twitter handle and event hashtag. This is a great low cost marketing strategy.
- Glam it up – Create the right ambiance with your music selection and décor – for example, step and repeat banners or interesting sponsor activations (like a make-up booth, or a create-your-own-something) are an easy way to make your event seem more high-end. Have a hot speaker, like a celebrity or someone high profile in the industry, as your emcee. Millennials are very curious to see what new food is popping up on menus.
- #BrokeNoJoke – Many junior professionals don’t have a big budget in the way of professional development, and may even need to foot the bill themselves. This means that it is unlikely that they will be able to attend an event with a big price tag, so consider that when pricing your event and making your event day selections, if you’re aiming to break even. If you need to make money off your event but still want to break out the big guns, introduce a young professional fee.
- Giveaways – These are incentives for everyone, but particularly for young people (see above reason – #BrokeNoJoke). Use this to market your event. Consider something technology or service related, like an iPad or professional headshots.
- Open bar – Attending an evening event usually means having a few drinks, and if you’re at a trendy venue, the bar tab can add up pretty quickly. Having an open bar on a Thursday evening will cater to the demographic living on a budget and will also likely offer a cheaper alternative to their usual Thursday night.
- Location – Aim to have your event in the downtown core. Millennials are less likely to travel outside of the city, due to convenience or cost, so ensure that your location is conveniently located and accessible by transit.
- Marketing as a ‘networking opportunity’ – Put your money where your mouth is. Be able to guarantee those networking connections and reach out to your network in advance to ensure some of your association champions at your event. This is particularly important for young professionals who may need to justify their attendance to their employers by the contacts or warm leads that they made.
- The reality of networking onsite – Networking is important enough to appear twice on our list. Joining an association provides a degree networking that you won’t find on LinkedIn, whether you’re making professional or personal contacts, and far exceeds connecting through social media in terms of the best use of your time and quality of relationship established. Ultimately, you want attendees to have this be their biggest takeaway, so do whatever you need to in order to make it worthwhile.
Looking for more ideas on how to attract Gen-Y and Gen-Z to associations? Find out how Redstone is bringing sexy back to associations.