The next-gen event-goer is here. How to attract and engage them?

Key differences exist between how a younger, diverse generation vs Gen X view business events.

The Next Gen Event Goer, namely those between 20 to 44-year-olds, need events to demonstrate clear value and provide opportunities for professional growth.
The Next Gen Event Goer, namely those between 20 to 44-year-olds, need events to demonstrate clear value and provide opportunities for professional growth. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/saksit

Event agency Freeman has released a report highlighting the changing nature of B2B event delegate demographics post-pandemic, with audiences now younger and more diverse.

 

The ‘Freeman Trends Report: Event attendee intent and behaviour Q1 2023’, reveals that age, then gender, consistently serve as the greatest predictors of values and behaviours at events. It identifies the Next Gen Event Goer (NGEG), and says these 20- to 44-year-olds need events to demonstrate clear value and provide opportunities for professional growth.

 

The report said: “They will not respond to a one-size-fits-all events strategy. The NGEG is already attending your events. They still want good content, but they also want connection and inspiration. They are ready to be in-person but are open to going online if it feels like a unique experience they can’t access elsewhere.”

 

Other trends include that this type of attendee does not see professional development in the same ways as the previous generation. The report says this needs to feel more authentic and more personalised, and most importantly, it needs to directly speak to their career aspirations.

 

Event attendees: Next-gen vs. Gen X

 

The report also examines the key differences between the NGEG and Gen X - those attendees aged 45-plus. With the existing Gen X audience viewing event attendance as a professional obligation, they are less focused on receiving a unique and personalised experience but they certainly appreciate an event that plays to their interests.

[Gen X] are not demanding a revolution of the industry, and they have the advantage of being further along in their careers, meaning they are not as acutely focused on what an event can do for them professionally.

“They are not demanding a revolution of the industry, and they have the advantage of being further along in their careers, meaning they are not as acutely focused on what an event can do for them professionally,” the report outlines. “The NGEGs are defining their careers as we speak, and they want a clear understanding of why attending an event is in their best interest.”

The NGEGs are defining their careers as we speak, and they want a clear understanding of why attending an event is in their best interest.

Additional insights include NGEGs’ desire for ‘connection’ at events, suggesting that they are a demographic looking for belonging, engagement and meaning as fundamental parts of their professional identity. Even with the easing of restrictions post-pandemic, the report found that NGEGs believe there are fewer opportunities to meet with colleagues than there used to be, debatably the biggest downside to remote culture for them.

 

“Video conferencing has lost its novelty, and they’re ready to get away from the screen and [go] in front of people in real life,” acknowledges the report. “Not only are in-person events the preferred format for professional training, but they are also considered the most trustworthy sources of information.”

 

The report concludes that the best way to understand the evolving expectations between old and new demographics is that one has tolerated being held captive at events while the other expects to be captivated.The key for both formats is to offer personalised content that capitalises on its chosen medium and which emphasises the attendee experience.