Tips for hosting meetings for 20-somethings to grandparents

Every 20 years or so, a generation gets a new label and researchers detail the differences among us. But while we certainly see life through different goggles, we also share something in common: Most of us are still working.

As a result, meeting planners are often tasked with appealing to three — sometimes four — generations at once: Millennials (1982-2004), Generation Xers (1965-1984), Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and some still-working Greatest Generation (1935-1945) folks who came before the Boomers.

It’s a kaliedoscope of expectations, all firmly resting on planners’ shoulders. Still, organizers can make everyone happy in one event by following a few guidelines. We looked to the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and other reputable sources for some help.

For Everyone: Offer Guidance

First, there’s something that everyone wants, regardless of age: tips on how to make the most out of their time at the meeting. That could mean helping people decide which session to attend, which hashtag to use when Tweeting and ways to spend free time. If you don’t guide your guests, they may feel overwhelmed and may not participate at all.

For Millennials: Get Real

Compared to other generations at comparable ages, Millennials—who make up the largest portion of the American workforce at one-third—are more highly educated, according to a Pew Study. They’re also comfortable in front of screens and on keyboards. Maybe this is what leads tech-savvy Millennials to crave real stories and locations that aren’t too pretentious or staged.

In fact, a PGAV Destinations survey found that 78 percent of Millennials want to learn something when they travel. So give them something that they just can’t get simply by Googling it.

In addition to speakers who tell compelling stories rather than just present searchable facts, plan time in the agenda for exploring the city and integrating into the local culture.

For Generation Xers: Answer “Why Should I Attend?”

Perhaps no one asks “what’s in it for me?” better than members of Generation X. They tend not to be consumed by work or winning and are pragmatic, if not skeptical, in how they divvy up their time. Many are leaving the comforts and activities of home as well as their family to attend your meeting, so they need to believe that it’ll be worth it.

Be clear on what they’ll gain by attending your event and consider including networking time and sessions on leadership skills to appeal to their career-building desires.

For Boomers: Offer Juicy Content

In a 2014 PCMA blog, generational consultant Kim Lear said Boomers—who are unfairly portrayed as tech-averse because they can’t or don’t want to understand the latest device or app—love to socialize and consume information, as long as it’s good.

For this audience, focus on reengagement, reinvention and cutting-edge content, said Lear, noting that this generation is likely to work past the traditional retirement age of 65, either because they want to or financially have to.

For the Greatest Generation: Follow Convention

This is the only generation that responds especially well to group learning, according to Tammy Erickson, an author and expert on generations, in a blog. These folks are accustomed to following the chain of command and do well in collaborative settings and focus groups. They also enjoy opportunities for hands-on learning and opportunities to demonstrate their loyalty to their employers.

What advice do you have about planning meetings for different generations? We’d love to hear your tips in the comments.

Want to learn more about planning an event at Monona Terrace? Contact Laura MacIsaac, CMP, director of sales, at or 608-261-4016.