Should young professionals attend conferences and training events? How do we get them (and their leadership) on board? What are young professionals actually looking for in a conference or professional training? How do we market to them appropriately?
As a young professional myself, planning conferences and training events for our clients, I’ve become increasingly curious about these questions. What have we done in terms of engaging young professionals at our benchmark events, and how can we improve moving forward?
Who is the “Young Professional?” Is it a Millennial (born between 1981-1996)? Is it someone who recently graduated college (0-5 years)? Someone 30 years of age and younger? Or maybe it’s just someone who is new to their industry? Based on what I’ve seen, read, and experienced in my personal and professional life, a young professional is all of the above: if you identify as a YP, you are a YP.
Why Should YP’s Attend Conferences?
It’s no secret that the main reason anyone attends a conference is for networking— connecting with current clients/customers, seeking new leads, showcasing or browsing new products and ideas, learning about technology developments, and meeting new colleagues within your industry. In fact, that’s the number one piece of feedback we get from attendees at our clients’ events: the networking and connections made at the conference is invaluable and the reason they return year after year. The best way for a young professional to establish a foothold and make new connections in their field is to attend a conference dedicated to your industry.
Millennials are the largest generation currently working in the US, at roughly 35% of the workforce. Say what you will about Millennials, organizations will need to embrace their place on the team and keep them there. In this strong job market, young professionals are looking for professional development— it’s arguably the best strategy to keep an employee engaged, build loyalty within a company, and increase profitability. Industry events and professional conferences provide numerous educational sessions and development courses across many subjects at one convenient, cost-effective location. With SEVEN12 clients, we aim to provide highly engaging, relevant sessions on topics spanning sales and business development, leadership and wellness, HR, marketing, technology, diversity in the workplace… the list goes on and on!
What Do YP’s Want at Conferences?
I love feedback, both personally and professionally. Even the most self-aware individual can’t see past their blind spots—you need alternative points of view to accurately see the whole picture. As a meeting planner, I seek attendee feedback via an online survey after each event concludes. In terms of understanding what young professionals want at a conference, I decided to seek feedback by polling my own network. I asked my contacts from the worlds of engineering, marketing, manufacturing, higher education and athletics to give me three things they enjoyed/found relevant at a recent conference, and three things that they felt were missing or fell flat.
Keep it Coming:
- Engaging presentations and educational sessions
- Healthy mix of sales/business development sessions and leadership/wellness sessions
- Conference app and badge scanning technology
- Healthy and convenient snacks
- Inclusive networking events like open forums and small groups with a moderator and structure
- Equipment demonstrations and interactive exhibits
- Scheduling educational sessions during exhibit hall times
- Cramped exhibit halls
- Static Displays
- Straight lecture-style sessions
What SEVEN12 is Doing
At SEVEN12, we have made engaging young professionals and first-time attendees one of our main priorities when we BUILD meeting and conference programs for our clients. We track first-time attendees through the registration process, and offer First-Time Attendee/VIP Orientations at many of our clients’ conferences and events. These orientations offer those who are new to the event an opportunity to meet industry leaders and connect with other first-time attendees, as well a chance to better understand the flow of a conference schedule and ask questions.
We’re constantly exploring ways to engage young professionals and build interest in attending future events by inviting them to team building activities, city tours, happy hours, educational sessions and round-table discussions – all crafted to be dynamic and interactive, while building a sense of belonging and community. Our goal is to create an experience for young professionals and first-time attendees—one that will fulfill their need to network and desire to learn, while making conference components interactive, constructive, innovative and fun.
In the spirit of feedback…what’s something you’ve been looking for at a conference or event as a young professional? Have you run into any hesitation from “decision-makers” when requesting to attend an industry event? And, if you manage young professionals and are that “decision-maker,” what are some of your misgivings or concerns about giving the green light for younger employees to attend conferences and professional development events? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.