Me, My Millennial Self and I: How Events are Changing

Millennials, Generation Y, Digital Natives, are all names given to the group of people born from the early 80s to the mid 90s. If, like me, you are about to graduate, recently graduated or are about to enter the “real world” of work, chances are you’re a Millennial.

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Image Source Via Consultancy.uk

We’ve been over-analysed and widely written about because we’re the first generation to be shaped by technology, making the way we work, communicate, buy and consume information different than generations before us, and they don’t like it. We’ve been labelled as entitled, lazy, unrealistic, and technology dependent, but we’re also known for being efficient, able to multi-task, life-long learners, and more globally and socially conscious (CareerFAQ, QuintCareers).

Generation bashing isn’t new, but it is important to pay attention to the changes that Generation Y is influencing. We’re set to become 75% of the workforce by 2025, and the primary portion of consumer spending; currently millennials are spending over £400 million each month on live events. With this figure set to rise, as future event managers, we need to pay attention to what this group want from events and how we can deliver it.

Generation Y is changing the events industry in many areas, as detailed below. Members of the events industry need to be prepared to shift focus towards these millennial needs to be successful in the future.

Technology

To attract Generation Y, technology needs to be a big part of the event. To us, technology is second nature, and whilst some say it has played a big part in our shortened attention spans, it can also be a solution to keeping us engaged. We want to be able to use our technology in meetings, creating an event hashtag on Twitter can help drive engagement as we can use it to submit questions, or participate in polls, and communication can continue online after the event has finished.

Co-Creation

We’ve been called “Generation me me me”, selfish and self-absorbed, but it’s actually that we’re interested in things that are going to add to our individual value, so we want to know what we’ll gain from attending an event. As a result, attendee participation and co-creation of events is a great way to drive Generation Y interest. Let us tell you what we would like to see, what speakers we’re interested in hearing, or vote for acts to appear at a festival.

Programme Design

The primary change being driven by Generation Y is in the conference and meetings sector. Despite our reputation for a lack of interest in face-to-face connection, we actually want more opportunities to connect and network within conference programmes. We want shorter, targeted speeches/sessions and more collaborative activities. The ideal time for a presentation to Generation Y is between 20-25 minutes, then another portion of 20 minutes to discuss what’s been said. According to the Pomodoro Technique, 25 minutes is the optimum time to allocate to a task for maximum productivity, Generation Y’s shorter attention spans makes this a necessary technique for the conference industry to begin to adopt as Generation Y begins to dominate attendee numbers.

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Image source via Creative Commons

Marketing

Generation Y is the mobile generation, we’ve seen the bricks and the flips and witnessed the birth and evolution of the smartphone, which 87.7% of us now have so that we can access to the internet anywhere. Whilst websites are still the first port of call for millennials to find information about an event, future marketing will have to be mobile focused due to the increased use of mobile phones to access the internet. Marketing content will have to be mobile compatible, for example videos have to able to be viewed vertically. Social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram facilitates direct communication between millennials and event managers, we can give instant feedback and opinions, meeting our need to participate in the creation of the event. Whilst still emerging, wearable tech is set to be the latest technology embraced by Generation Y, meaning future event managers need to understand the technology and ensure that any mobile marketing via social media and apps is compatible with wearables.

Whilst this Eventbrite article found that word of mouth is still an important way people learn about events, with the growing dominance of Generation Y within the workforce and consumer groups, mobile marketing remains an important area of concentration for event managers to focus on to get millennial’s attention and attendance.

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We as millennials, and future event organisers, need to understand the engagement and communication methods Generation Y wants from events so that we can over see the transition from Generation X and the Baby Boomers event preferences, to an efficient and technology driven industry. It also begins preparation for the arrival of Generation Z, whose communication and event design preferences we’ll need to know, as we’ll be the ones marketing and designing events for them in a few years time.

Education vs. Experience – Events Edition

Throughout my three years as an events management student I have had various friends and family members and even a few strangers question the legitimacy of my degree. What I didn’t realise, is how much of a debate events degrees caused throughout the industry itself.

Events management is one of the UK’s fastest growing industries, its fast-paced, it’s exciting and there’s lots of different areas to work in, but the question is, which is the best route to that dream job, education or experience?

Events degrees are no longer new, having been offered by a small number of universities since the early 2000’s when they were considered to “give you an edge” in the jobs market, however, nowadays it seems to be the opposite. As of 2016, there are 233 event management related degrees to choose from, making event graduates more common place so it becomes practical event experience that sets candidates apart in job interviews.

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Image source Via Creative Commons

The experience side of the debate argues that practical work in events, through volunteering and internships, is valued over everything when it comes to getting jobs. However,  in this national post article, Mireille Silcoff points out that the more that people undertake unpaid work to gain more experience to become more qualified for a job, only to find that companies are offering less jobs because they can hire an intern to do the job for free.

However, all the importance placed on having experience  by the industry doesn’t take away the value of a having university degree. University allows students to learn much more than their subject of choice, through assignments and presentations graduates  develop a number of transferable skills that make them capable of transitioning into a professional environment (The University Blog, Go Think Big). Event degrees are no exception to this as students develop strong written, communication and team work transferable skills, as well as an understanding of the broader events world (Event Magazine), which will no doubt be of value when interacting with colleagues and clients in the future.

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Events management degrees do offer more than just transferable skills though, Rob Davidson, former events lecturer, argues that event students are taught the “bigger picture” of the industry, such as how events impact economies, societies, cultures and the environment. I think studying events in this way, is going to be beneficial to future me, as I will be able to base my eventing decisions on the knowledge I have gained from evaluating  various case studies to ensure any events I am involved in are positively impacting. I feel it’s important to say that an event course is all textbooks, theory and essays. In my university programme, 25% of the second year is practical event creation, students have the option to take a full time work placement between second and third year, and our lecturers encourage and provide us with volunteering opportunities.

Whilst I’ll never say that events degrees are worth nothing in the job hunt, I am under no impression that I would walk off the stage at graduation and straight in to a job on a degree alone. Degrees are great, they’re just not enough on their own, especially in the events management world where experience is beneficial in order to do the job effectively.  Throughout my future career, I will be trying to show those that disagree that an events management degree is an asset rather than a hinderance. Industry recognition of the value of a degree is especially important if the subject continues to grow in popularity amongst universities and students alike.

The education vs experience debate is bound to go on, but who’s to say you can only have one? From my experience, I have had companies interested in what I have done, and others interested in what I learn at university, therefore I have two top tips for people looking at going to university but are worried about being taken seriously by the pro-experience industry.

  • Do an Internship/Volunteering/Part-Time Roles
    A degree shows a commitment to the industry and experience will reinforce that commitment throughout the 3-4 years you’re at university, as well as giving you some much desired experience for your CV.
  • Shape your course to match your areas of interest.
    Most universities will have set modules and additional modules you can choose, this allows you to create a tailored degree programme to your interests. This may help with applying for jobs as your education is more specific to your preferred sector.

 

So, education or experience? At the end of the day; what you need most is passion, hard work and the desire to learn. As Mary Angelou puts it best: “nothing will work unless you do”.

 

 

The Future is Paperless: Modernising Event Ticketing

As a future members of the events industry, it’s important for us to keep up with trends and developments, to benefit the events we’re creating. The transition to paperless ticketing, in the form of mobile-ticketing apps and credit/debit card on-the-door identification poses many benefits to venues, event organisers and attendees alike.  This type of ticketing is utilised to try to stop professional scalpers and extortionate resales, as well as increase ease 0f the ticketing process for the attendees as they don’t need to remember or worry about ruining their ticket because it’s stored in their phone.

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Image source via creative commons

Paperless ticketing methods do face some criticism, mainly from the attendees side of the systems.

  • Buyer’s name/card details attached to the ticket: This makes it difficult to buy an event ticket as a gift, especially with the credit card system, where the cardholder would have to be present in order to validate the ticket. This also causes problems with group booking, as the tickets are registered in the buyers name, all the attendees in the group would have to enter at the same time, rather than having the option of meeting inside if someone is delayed.
  • Restrictions on ticket transferring: The paperless system designed to benefit attendees by preventing tickets getting into the hands of scalpers is the same system that causes attendees to pay the price when they can no longer attend an event they have a mobile-ticket for. Unlike traditional or pdf printed tickets, it is not yet possible for mobile-tickets or credit card ID tickets to be resold amongst attendees.

The criticisms of paperless ticketing  can be seen in this news article, where attendees express their frustration at the inflexibility of the system Ticketmaster put in place for a Radiohead concert in 2012.  In America, attendee frustration at the restrictions associated with paperless ticketing has prompted the Fan Freedom Project, a campaign to have more control over their tickets, and argue that paperless ticketing might benefit the event but it is the opposite of convenient for attendees.

A more tangible paperless ticketing system rising in popularity is the RFID bracelets, wristbands or cards which have the ticket holders identity tied to it, are difficult to fraudulently copy and have reduced restrictions on ticket transferring/reselling between attendees. However, the lighter restrictions could reintroduce touting threat and extortionate resale prices, the very problem paperless ticketing is designed to avoid!

RFID technical ticketing methods are increasing in popularity amongst event organisers, venues and attendees, not only because of attendees having more control over their tickets or counterfeit ticket prevention but because of the potential to combine the wristband, bracelet or card with cashless payment technology. Some music festivals are already implementing this technology, such as Wireless Festival  and Download Festival in 2012, to varied levels of success. The crash in the system at Download Festival proves that paperless/cashless ticketing hybrids still need to be developed before being rolled out as a go-to ticketing method. However, with the increase of cashless use in everyday life, the introduction of Apple Pay and similar programmes, technology tickets combined with cashless might be ready to take over from current popular paperless ticketing methods.

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Image Source via RFID

It is important to keep up to date with developing ticketing trends as  future members of the events management industry to not only be aware of developments but also understanding why ticketing is changing. A reaction to unauthorised sellers? Are attendees unhappy? Will new ticket trends enhance my event? This knowledge of ticketing will be beneficial when pairing a ticket method with an event, for example music festivals are more likely to benefit from the RFID tickets with cashless payment technology integrated to reduce queuing at food vendors or cash being stolen. Whereas a more intimate event might best optimise mobile-ticketing to prevent counterfeit copies being accepted which could cause overcrowding and risk the safety of the attendees. In the future, knowing the benefits of different ticketing systems, knowing your event and knowing your audience will allow appropriate selection of a ticketing method.

It terms of right now, no paperless ticketing system is flawless, hence why paper tickets are still used. Both mobile-ticketing and RFID systems have benefits but these differ depending on the perspective or the user. Mobile-ticketing is great for preventing ticket touts from bulk buying and selling on, or counterfeit tickets as well as making entering the event more efficient, where as consumers are restricted in what they can do with their ticket if they can no longer use it, or how they manage group bookings. RFID provides the flexibility of a paper ticket for attendees but reintroduces the risk of touting.

So until the perfect ticketing system is developed to be both convenient and efficient, to be able to be bought as gifts and transferred between attendees, a paperless ticketing is still very much the future.

The Five Phases of Giving a University Presentation

Presenting ideas and information is a core element of the professional world, and my university has helped me to learn and develop these skills. As part of the final year, we were to deliver a 50 minute workshop on a current issue within the events industry, from doing this I have identified 5 key phases I experienced during this task.

1. Group Selection

Our group was formed because of mutual interest in the topic. I chose ‘Event Legacy’ because England were hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup at the time, making for a great contemporary case study.

There are many challenges that come with group work, such as co-ordinating meetings, differing motivation levels and academic differences. I was particularly worried about these, as my group was a collection of people I hadn’t worked with before. As our workshop was the first one to be presented, there wasn’t much time to figure out if we had different working styles, which could have been problematic! Thankfully, everyone was  just as motivated as I was to deliver a strong workshop, especially within our tight time constraints.

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Image source via creative commons

2. Outlining and Dividing the Topic

We used our first meeting to create a session plan, outlining what we wanted to cover. An outline helped us create a focused guideline of relevant material needs to be included which we referred to when working individually to avoid accidental repetition. This certainly helped us efficiently choose who would research each area and ensuring our workshop had a strong structure.

The brief was to deliver an interactive workshop, so we also discussed the methods we would use. It’s been said that interaction is an effective way of understanding and retaining information, which inspired our chosen engagement methods of asking questions and a quiz at the end to ensure students understood and absorbed the workshop content.

3. Creating the Presentation

After we divided up the session plan we each researched our own individual parts and PowerPoint slides. We made sure our slides were clear and understandable to prevent losing audience interest. This allowed us to put all of the important information on the slides, but verbally elaborate details.

Audience remember what they see more than what they are told, so I looked to use a variety of visual aids when discussing the Rugby World Cup 2015. I incorporated videos to change the pace of the workshop and allow the audience a break from us talking, which was noted in our feedback as a good way of driving audience engagement. Looking back, I think our audience would have benefitted from an activity, rather that just sitting, listening and watching.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

The most important stage! We ran through our workshop as a group beforehand, allowing us to be familiar with what we intended to say so that we could confidently refer back to what each other had said to reiterate a point. Practicing increases familiarity with presentation speeches, which we found limited over-reliance on notes, improving our delivery. Personally, I take practicing tips from this Forbes article in order to confidently deliver a presentation. However, our large audience made me nervous and I ended up looking behind me more than them, which I would have to avoid doing in the future. Our practicing led to us receiving positive feedback on “slick” transitions between speakers and the overall “well rehearsed” nature of the workshop.

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5. Delivery

We took on board the 7 rules of delivery such as talking directly at the audience not reading notes (except for me looking at the board a bit). Based on qualitative feedback from our lecturers we had strong presentation skills and managed to maintain our very large audience’s attention for the full 50 minutes. We  engaged with our audience, encouraging their involvement, however, they were hesitant, and instead of encouraging further we moved on, lessening overall student interaction. Scott Berkun says that a good workshop has low numbers, which could explain the reluctance to participate, as the sheer amount of people Q&A style of interaction gave the workshop a lecture atmosphere where interaction is less.

I think our workshop was delivered well, but we could have reduced the amount of content on explaining legacies. We could have also incorporated different ways of student interaction, such as having the students break into groups for activities or games where they have to apply the information we gave, to try to remove the ‘lecture’ atmosphere that we had created.

Whilst the workshop wasn’t perfect, I further developed my group work and presentation skills, which could be adapted to working in a professional setting where I’m delivering an event rather than a workshop. I think that university is a great way to practice and strengthen the skills I will need when I move further into my events career.  Delivering this workshop taught me to consider the audience’s experience of a presentation, and in the future, if I’m ever pitching event ideas, I’ll be thinking about how I want my audience to react to what I’m presenting and hope to spark inspiration, rather than them just listening.