Is it time to start designing millennial-style meetings?

Panellists at BE @ Penang 2019 highlight need to balance innovative event formats while staying true to events’ fundamental purpose of building connections

Innovation In Business Events panellists debate the pros and cons of new event formats.

PENANG - Millennials and Gen Z are big on experience, have shorter attention spans, and seek greater purpose in everything they do.

These are the observations shared at BE @ Penang 2019's Innovation In Business Events panel, where industry leaders emphasised the need for meetings to adapt to the next generation of meeting attendees.

Think ball pits, fireside chats, and "silent conferencing" - where sessions are broadcast simultaneously in a single hall and attendees can simply switch between different channels on a headset.

"Speaking as a millennial, what would make me pay to attend an event isn't just the content - that's a given - but the experience as well," said Jason Teh, managing director, Pico Malaysia. "For example, with traditional lecture-style sessions, I find it hard to stay focused or may have to deal with emails halfway through.

"If the session could be broadcast live at the foyer or even online, then I could stay connected to what's going on without missing out."

But Han Chiang, co-founder of Orange Gibbon, demurred and warned that novel formats alone would not fulfil one of the fundamental objectives of most meeting attendees: to network and make connections.

"Formats like silent conferencing are cool, but that's no different from watching TED Talks online. In this day and age, we're moving from one-way delivery to two-way exchange," said Ms Han. "Instead, we like to encourage speakers to shorten their sessions to 15 minutes and design more discussion and action for attendees."

Veemal Gungadin, CEO at GlobalSignIn, added that meeting owners could make use of the vast amounts of attendee data available to personalise events for delegates, such as by seating people together at meals based on their professional background or the sessions they've attended.

However, all the panellists agreed that adapting swiftly would give planners a competitive advantage, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

As Mona Manap, panel moderator and CEO of Place Borneo, put it, "We're comfortable now, you still have Gen X to cushion your events. But by the time you realise you need to cater to the millennials, it's going to be too late."

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