May 01, 2016

Every age group brings diverse learning and communication styles to meetings and events. Now demographers tell us that in a few short years it's likely there'll be attendees from as many as five generations at meetings. Your job is to make sure your event connects with all of them.

A good starting point is to "remember that the generations have different experiences," says Kathy Davanzo, SPHR, an expert on workforce generational issues. This is especially important "when selecting music, themes, analogies, references, stories or other items to deliver a message, create energy in the room or otherwise engage participants," says Davanzo, president of the Pelorus Leadership Group in South Pasadena, Florida. 

Mix It Up
Above all, don't be boring, urges Chris Ballman, senior director, education and learning services at SmithBucklin. 

Do vary the format of the sessions on your agenda, including by building in interactive, hands-on and fun learning events. 
"Incorporate a variety of education delivery methods," Ballman advises, "such as designing solutions through the use of white boards or designating topics for small-table discussions with the findings delivered to the full group."

Keep It Lively
If you're including traditional-style presentations, keep them short and sweet-and don't let speakers rely too heavily on PowerPoint. Encourage the use of storytelling and real-life examples. "Everyone likes a good story, regardless of age," Ballman says.

When your group includes younger participants, it's a good idea to include programming that addresses their career concerns. 

Another tip: Create opportunities for participants to network across generations. "This may include agenda time where participants are encouraged to specifically share their insights cross-generationally," Davanzo says.

Speak Their Language
Here are a few more tips for successful multigenerational meetings:

* Communicate with attendees across platforms, including email, texts and social media - before, during and after the event.
* Provide pre-meeting and onsite materials and handouts in varied formats, including digital, printable and hard copy.
* Encourage attendees to tweet about the program as they listen, take electronic notes, and send the speaker a question or personal insight, etc. 


Myrtle Beach offers a variety of oceanfront settings for groups to bridge the generation gap.

Select the Right Site
Engaging attendees from multiple generations starts with choosing a meetings destination that sparks excitement for everyone. Keep in mind that younger attendees will be keen on opportunities to explore new places and sample new experiences.

One destination that promises to fit the bill is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "From attractions and live theaters to shopping and cultural experiences, the Myrtle Beach area truly offers something for everyone," says Kim DaRoja, director of group sales for the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. With first-class meeting facilities, beautiful beaches, and an eclectic mix of activities, Myrtle Beach is the kind of destination that has strong cross-generational appeal.