Originally posted on Travel Market Report (Harvey Chipkin 8/11/2011)
The future of meeting planning is in the hands of younger planners who are enthusiastic about their careers and eager to bring change to the industry. They may belong to a generation that lives and works in cyberspace, but these young planners agree with their older colleagues that face-to-face get-togethers are crucial and cannot be replaced by texting, Skype and webinars.
To learn what’s on the minds of the next generation of planners, Travel Market Report spoke with three under-35 planners – Eli Gorin, CMP, 32; Kristine Morgan, 34, and Robyn Mietkiewicz, CMP, 30. Following are their thoughts on everything from texting during meetings to the importance (or not) of being green.
Engaging younger attendees
“Planners who are younger than I am are a tough audience to engage. They’re the first to grow up on computers. People in that generation don’t want to go into a room and be spoken and/or lectured to. They want a verbal back and forth, texting back and forth. They’ve been brought up with collaboration, and they’re collaborators in everything they do.” – Kristine Morgan, meeting planner, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Austin, Texas
“It’s important to have rich dialogue pre-, during and post-meeting to encourage participation, excitement and buy-in. Allowing younger attendees to have a say in the educational content is key. Solicit their feedback and provide customization whenever possible. . . . Being diverse and appealing to both generational audiences is critical. Providing both printed and digital conference materials is an example of that. Today we are seeing older attendees becoming more tech savvy and looking to enrich their experience at all stages of the meeting.” – Robyn Mietkiewicz, CMP, director, accounts and global meeting management services, Meeting Sites Resource, Irvine, Calif.
Closing the generation gap
“There are gaps, but they are being bridged. When I started 10 years ago, you could feel the rift between the younger generation and the veterans. I’ve been hounding people about this for years. I run a program with MPI where we put new entrants to the industry and veterans into a room. They come up with three questions to ask of each other and that starts the discussion.” – Eli Gorin, CMP, vice president, global client relations, ABTS Convention Services, North Bay Village, Fla.
“Understanding generational differences and customizing the attendee experience will be the wave of the future. This will apply for all age ranges and will provide more ROE [return on event] for your attendees.” – Mietkiewicz
Technology and meetings
“The younger generation is more apt to embrace the use of various technological platforms in the planning process and meeting architecture. At our company, we are utilizing a multitude of resources, including webinars, webcasting and interactive learning to reach a wider audience and engage those who are unable to attend. Virtual meetings are a great supplement to face-to-face meetings, and webcasting is an incredible way to reach a wider audience. Incorporating both physical and virtual elements offers the best of both worlds.” – Mietkiewicz
“I do a lot of work for a major high-tech company, and they are actually growing the number of face-to-face meetings.” – Morgan
“Technology will never overtake meetings. There is a psychology to human interaction that technology will never be able to replicate, unless somebody comes up with a human hologram. You need to feel that handshake and see that facial expression. . . . Another thing to remember: just because you’re young doesn’t make you a tech genius. When I’m at a meeting, everybody is on their tablets and other devices; that’s not a generational thing.”– Gorin
Embracing social media
“In my previous job I was big on Twitter, but not with this job. So it depends on what you’re doing. I do see MeCo’s Social Media Headquarters (on Facebook) and other planner forums as phenomenal resources because they help build a community. But I think we’re inundated with technology and that it has to plateau.” – Gorin
“Social media should be incorporated into meeting planning from the early stages, as it is a powerful marketing tool and a budget booster. We use social media to engage our attendees pre, during and post to facilitate rich dialogue. Having a mobile app for your meeting is also an excellent idea. If the speaker is able to incorporate social media into their presentation, this can serve as an incredible way to engage your attendees. It is also a great way to generate buzz about your meeting.” – Mietkiewicz
Hotels: hip vs. traditional
“I work with a meeting consultant in his 20s who loves the sleek and trendy places like The Wit in Chicago. I am planning a meeting at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas; it’s big, but it’s more trendy than other Vegas hotels.” – Morgan
Shades of green
“I don’t see being green as the number one priority for my meetings, though there are organizations that do make that the priority. I do hate bottled water and would like to make that go away from all my meetings. Associations used to put out those big binders with lists of all the attendees; that’s not common anymore. – Morgan
Will it bother you if I tweet?
“Tweeting and texting during meetings are common across age groups. Everybody has an iPad or other mobile pad in front of them.” – Morgan
“I don’t mind if people are Tweeting while I speak.” – Gorin
Active in the industry
“The ROI for volunteering your time is immense. It’s an opportunity to elevate your network, your leadership skills and your career. Most successful people in our industry have realized the importance of getting involved as a means to stay current on industry trends and issues affecting the future of our industry. Surrounding yourself with people who have the same passion as you is a powerful motivator. MPI has been the cornerstone of many of my successes.” – Mietkewicz
“I love meeting planning and can’t imagine doing anything else. You do work hard, but it’s a lot of fun. You may go to a city and see nothing but the convention center and your hotel room, but you meet people from all over. It’s never dull.” – Morgan
“I’m not going anywhere.” – Gorin