I'm attending with my grandpa!

March 17, 2017

Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle. Click here for a link.


Many of today’s association meetings host attendees from up to three generations—from 60+-year-olds to 20-somethings. This is both exciting and challenging.

As a planner, it’s your job to ensure that each participant leaves your meeting knowing she/he is better off for attending.


Besides planning two different events to make everyone happy, consider these ideas.



Tip #1

Recognize that attendees from different generations generally have different learning and behavioral styles.

  • Seasoned professionals prefer expert lecturers and cringe when asked to turn to a neighbor. They are less likely to use devices as learning or networking tools.

  • Young professionals just want to do it—whatever it is! At the same time, they will be on their devices sharing every aspect of the awesome experience.

Tip #2

No rule is universal.

  • There are Boomers who like experiential learning (me!) and Millennials who like lectures.

  • Do not label sessions as “Boomer” or “Millennial.” Simply describe the teaching format and your attendees will find the ones they like.

Tip #3

If you don’t plan for multi-generational attendance, you risk losing everyone.

  • Plan for all generations to ensure sustained attendance. You need Millennials who love attending your event; Boomers won’t be around forever.

  • Create mentor-like opportunities for seasoned pros to coach or formally interact with emerging professionals.

  • On surveys ask for their age category—Boomer, Gen X or Y, Millennial—and use responses for future planning.



Schedule one topic to be presented in two different learning formats.

We’re planning a session on how to make soup. Using the same learning objectives (very important), schedule one lecture and one hands-on.


Boomers, and auditory learners, will like the lecture where an experienced chef shares his/her wisdom, a great recipe and a photo of the soup.


Younger participants, and kinesthetic (physical) learners, will head toward the kitchen where a chef is directing them in making the soup that they get to eat. Yum!


Scheduling the sessions simultaneously would be very interesting. Be sure to monitor attendance. You would find this Boomer in the kitchen!



Learn what Millennials want from Smart Meetings. Click here. An interesting quote dissuading planners from using social media onsite: “Why would anyone want to invest time and resources to attend an event with amazing people, and then get on their phone [tweeting] for three days? Instead, offer the opportunity for participants to connect authentically, face to face. Focus on attendees, not hashtags.”


This article, from Successful Meetings in 2007 still rings true, even though Millennials weren’t in the work force yet! Click here. An interesting quote: “For instance, ‘Boomers love awards nights,’ says Fishman. “Xers couldn’t care less about them. Boomers like to stand up after a 45-miutes keynote speech and ask questions. Xers find all of that a waste of time. Boomers love motivational speakers. Xers can't stand them; they want informational speakers. Boomers love golf and spa. Xers like adventure—this is the generation that invented extreme sports."



May 2019 additions to include discussion of Gen Z ::

5 Ways to Engage Millennials and Generation Z at Conferences

How Are You Marketing Your Event to Generation Z Attendees?

Meet the multitasking, tech-reliant, hyper-aware Gen Zers


Information disclaimer: WANT MORE? references do not imply an endorsement for any company, product, or service.




Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website!

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