The changing expectations of B2B event attendees

The changing expectations of B2B event attendees

As Millennials, or the generation of individuals born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019), make up the majority of the workforce, they’re also changing the landscape of B2B corporate events. Millennials are bringing with them their distinct preferences when it comes to work, meetings, and ways of doing business. 

How Millennials feel about events

For starters, Millennials are known for being a tech-enabled generation, having grown up alongside the rise of the Internet, personal computers, smartphones, and social media.

Yet despite being digital natives, Millennials still attend events because they value experiences, leading to what’s now known as the Experience Economy. 

Forbes reports that three in four Millennials, or roughly 78 percent, would rather spend money on an event or experience than buy a tangible object they desire. In fact, nine out of 10 Millennials have attended at least one live event in the past 12 months, according to research by Eventbrite

Apart from the experience factor, Millennials also see attending corporate events as an opportunity to shape their identity—a way to grow their knowledge, expand their personal networks, and further their career. Eventbrite’s research also shows that 75 percent of Millennials feel that participating in an event is more impactful than just taking an action online. 

What Millennials expect from B2B events

Enabled by modern technologies

It’s no secret that Millennials are prolific users of tech, which makes it important for your event space to have technologies such as digital screens, event apps, web widgets, and RFID-enabled badges. The key is to leverage technology for technical convenience, making it easy for attendees to experience your event in their own terms. 

First things first: Wi-Fi access is an absolute must. 

Millennials have a penchant for conducting business on their smartphones, tablet devices, and laptops, so they’ll appreciate being able to stay connected at your venue. Speaking of devices, it’s also a good idea to provide charging stations for laptop and smartphone users, helping them stay powered up throughout the event. 

You could also provide an official event app, through which you can send push notifications to smartphones and smartwatches. That same app can facilitate business matchmaking, recommending matches based on attendees’ profiles, industry backgrounds, and networking objectives. 

Integration with social media 

B2B event organizers should also consider how Millennials interact with one another and get information. 

For example, when it comes to business communications on social media, LinkedIn is the preeminent platform, used by 87 million Millennials. Bumble Bizz is another promising social media platform, geared towards business networking; more than 17 million new matches happen on the app every week since launch in October 2017. 

Of course, it goes without saying that organizers should also leverage the three social media pillars, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, whether it’s by running event marketing on these platforms or using them to push targeted messages to attendees. 

An event experience designed for their needs

As the cohort driving the Experience Economy, Millennials look for genuine experiences when assessing the value of a business conference. As such, event planners must look beyond the logistics aspect of the conference and become experience architects, finding ways to deliver an emotional message that resonates with attendees.

One example of this can be seen in the DMSS Conference, a digital marketing conference that uses its venue location in Bali as a unique value proposition. The annual conference also features a selection of impressive speakers, combining this with unique experiences, such as yoga sessions, official afterparties, lunch and coffee breaks, and a networking day by the pool and beach.

Best value for time and money

With so many B2B events happening every year, Millennials tend to base their decision on which conference, workshop, or meeting to attend on value for money. For example, according to a study by the EXPERIENCE Institute, 49 percent of Millennials viewed “opportunities to network and make connections” on-site at events as being “Very Important”—the highest of any generation surveyed. 

A separate report by Skift and Meetings Mean Business shows that most Millennials are motivated to join meetings and events for career networking and job opportunities. 

Furthermore, Millennials would rather network face-to-face than virtually, because they want to be more memorable to their counterparts. Face-to-face interactions were also perceived to have a higher rate of converting new business. 

Actionable tips for B2B event organizers

Be consistent with your event experience

Be intentional about the event experience you want to provide to attendees. 

For example, if your event concept revolves around technology, everything about your event must reflect this. This includes your speakers, sponsors, and topics to be discussed, as well as the way attendees can interact with your event space, their fellow attendees, and exhibitors. In other words, a tech event must be tech-enabled to create a consistent event experience.

Likewise, a networking-oriented event must have the tools and infrastructure in place to facilitate connections between attendees. It’s here where a matchmaking platform will be most valuable, giving Millennial attendees a familiar way to create business relationships with one another. 

Offer a unique selling proposition

To help attendees decide which B2B events are worth joining, you should be able to communicate what sets your conference or workshop apart from everything else there. Ask yourself: Why would I choose to attend this event and not another one? 

There are a few ways to identify your event’s unique selling proposition:

  • Content – Is the content of your event better than others? You might have some of the best speakers to appear at any event in your city. You might also be tackling a trending topic that’s barely been discussed in the industry. 
  • Format – A unique format is another way an event could stand out. Perhaps you’re offering a new twist on networking sessions, or an “unconference,” where participants, instead of speakers, drive the event. 
  • Location – Finally, the event’s location could also be its main draw. Hosting your conference in an exotic location like Bali, Boracay, or Phuket can be a great way to differentiate it. 

Don’t leave networking as an afterthought

The desire of Millennials to have strong, valuable connections at B2B events should encourage event planners to integrate networking as a core proposition in their events. Focus on designing events that allow attendees to:

  • Establish connections with other registered attendees prior to the event
  • Fit into an event format optimized for business matches, complete with the tools and spaces to make this happen
  • Stay in touch with their business matches after the event

One of the simplest ways to do this is with a matchmaking app like Toasty.  We use artificial intelligence to analyze and recommend matches for your event attendees. Our software helps them meet qualified leads, build meaningful business relationships, and close more deals, and these are the reasons they will join your next event. 

Over to you

Although creating events tailored to Millennials seems complicated, the trick lies in creating experiences that match their event objectives. As mentioned earlier, Millennials care deeply about face-to-face interactions with their follow attendees, so it’s important for this experience to be integrated into your event format. 

Learning is another goal they care about, so take the time to curate speakers or come up with topics that potential attendees will be interested in. At Toasty, we want to help our organizers simplify this process by asking attendees to fill in more data for matchmaking purposes—this information can include their event objectives and purpose of joining. With the ocean of data, we can then analyze popular keywords and give you an overview of the topics your attendees are drawn to. Attendee objectives and trends could never be automatically analyzed until now.

Finally, tech is crucial to the Millennials’ desired event experience. Use technology to make your event convenient, whether it’s with little touches like charging stations and free Wi-Fi or with a capable event app that pushes notifications and facilitates business matching. 

When it comes to events, Millennials appear to be a tough generation to crack. But at the end of the day, they want many of the same things anyone attending a conference wants: a meaningful experience that makes a difference in their career and professional development.