Generation Z is shaping the future of meetings and incentive travel.

In a recent deep dive into the likes and dislikes of the next great wave of business travelers, Creative Group discovered some meaningful demographic disparity between Millennials and Generation Z. Born between 1996 – 2010, Gen Z is now reaching adulthood and entering the workforce in numbers that will dramatically increase over the next 5 –10 years, creating challenges and opportunities for meeting and event planners.

We have been proactive in monitoring and adapting to post-Millennial trends that are shaping and shifting the meeting landscape. There’s a lot to unpack, and some key findings are in direct contrast to the values of their predecessors. For example, while Millennials have generally been perceived as optimists who wanted to “be discovered,” Gen-Z tends to be more mature and resourceful – pragmatic realists who are more focused on working to achieve success. And while Millennials may have been early adopters of technology and devices to communicate primarily with text, 20-somethings have become adept at tapping into multiple screens and platforms simultaneously to interact with others, with an increasing dependency on image-centric messaging.

More ambitious and entrepreneurial than their Millennial siblings, Gen-Z’s influence on the meeting and incentive travel industry will be profound and is already being felt. Understanding the demographics of this emerging force and addressing the cultural values and media consumption habits they espouse will be critical to the success and ROI of your future meetings and events. Here are a few key things to consider as the calendar flips forward and the median age of your meeting attendees continues to skew younger.

Leave them to their own devices.

Generation Z is inherently dependent on technology, and they seamlessly multi-task across multiple devices and platforms. They do not see technology as a tool but as an integral part of everyday life. Ultra-connected and uber-savvy, they expect a consistent and relevant digital i|xperience as they switch fluidly between screens, and they are frustrated by brands that are not up to speed with their digital presence.

TravelPort Digital reports that “in order to meet the expectations of Generation Z, travel companies need to invest in multi-device strategies that allow travelers to seamlessly interact with their brand across any device and at every stage of the travel cycle.” That’s why Creative Group developed applications and tools to support our clients, especially those with a growing and youthful employee base.

We are proud to provide one of the most sophisticated technology platforms in the meetings industry today. CreativeEDGE® is our proprietary end-to-end meeting management tool, providing complete support for online registration, attendee management, reporting and airline ticketing. Our platform accommodates global needs from foreign language programming and communications to 24/7 web accessibility anywhere in the world. To date, it has served to register and manage over 1 million participants.

Creative Group also developed EventAPP™ to get people to think, respond and share – before, during and after each event we create. Our proprietary app puts our clients’ brands in the hands of meeting participants and provides them with deeper, richer engagement with real-time communication and seamless updates.

Kids today… let them influence the others!

Today’s planners need to accommodate diverse audiences that may include Baby Boomers and Millennials as well as members of Gen X, Y, and Z, each with varying levels of comfort and familiarity with technology, social platforms, and digital behaviors. But that’s not to say future meetings will need to have one room for 20-somethings and another for 50-somethings. On the contrary. Ryan Jenkins, Millennial speaker and generations expert, reports that “previous generations are assimilating the behaviors of the emerging generations to remain relevant and functional in a high-tech world.” He further states “like no other generation before them, Generation Z (and Millennials) have actively tried to assimilate previous generations into their culture.

Immerse them in meaningful, eco-conscious experiences.

While Millennials may have trail-blazed and advocated on behalf of environmental issues like recycling and reduced energy consumption, Gen-Zers’ respect for the environment is ingrained and expected. They feel personal responsibility to make the world a better place and are more likely to support brands that stand behind causes they care about.

This can be viewed as a key insight for planners responsible for engaging and keeping younger meeting attendees’ enthusiasm and can be applied to everything from the physical meeting spaces where business will be conducted to the types of immersive, socially relevant experiences they will share during their travels. For example, a new class of smart materials is gaining popularity, including plastics that change shape, paints that conduct electricity, pigments that change color, and fabrics that light up. By choosing innovative meeting spaces, planners can leverage resources that have the potential to drastically change the meeting experience as they appeal to a more basic form of interaction between humans and technology.

When Creative Group was challenged by a major international beverage retailer to design a group incentive travel program that would generate brand ambassadors, we designed a coffee-education trip that gave attendees the chance to experience coffee from plant to cup and drive home the company’s commitment to socially equitable and sustainable business practices. The majority of the education took place in the fields and the mills, in natural settings, to further the understanding of the climate and laborious task of coffee production – and to foster an emotional attachment to the product and the client brand.

Recharge their batteries, literally and figuratively. 

Gen-Z was born into an obesity epidemic and is the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than its predecessors. They are aware of this and seek to balance their programmed, busy lives and the pressure to succeed with exercise and nutrition. However, the Incentive Research Foundation finds a corporate disconnect between interest and implementation of wellness into their meetings and events: “Although over 90% of corporate planners agree they are personally enthusiastic about wellness, 87% agree it’s a critical focus of their company, and 71% agree there is a corporate wellness program, less than 50% connect their corporate wellness to meeting strategy.”

What we at Creative Group know from experience is that active and authentic experiences are what drive this young demographic, and keeping it real is an excellent way to keep them engaged with their brand and enthusiastic about their roles within the organization. That was our strategy when a hip, high-flying game developer challenged us to design a once-in-a-lifetime for the company’s young team of work hard, play hard Millennial and Gen-Z employees. We developed an itinerary filled with authentic experiences for an employee/spouse event that would thank, reward, excite, wow, and keep them thinking, “I work for the best company in the world.”

Embrace the Pace!

As a society, we’ve always relied on younger generations to push boundaries and drive innovation, but with advancements in communications technology increasing exponentially with the release of every new iPhone, it’s happening faster than ever before. The pace of the tech revolution combined with the enthusiasm of Generation Z to embrace it and make it their own will be a huge influence on how we live and work… and probably a lot sooner than you realize. Are you ready to tap into the power of the Gen-Z demo? We are, and we can show you the way.

Ready for Z future?

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