Hoteliers should take note that millennials love face-to-face meetings as much as they love their technology.
There are a number of misconceptions floating around the hotel industry about our largest growing demographic, the millennials. This stems from an overgeneralization of the key trends that they have brought to the forefront of our industry. Millennials, generally categorized as those born between 1980 and 1995, are a maturing group that prizes the use of technology for efficiency and ease of doing business. This is why it surprises many who learn millennials actually prefer face-to-face meetings and events just as much, if not more than, previous generations. Often characterized as having their eyes glued to a mobile device, millennials need to not be pigeon-holed so quickly in the minds of meeting and events planners.
Networking is prized as a key factor in one’s professional growth for millennials. In today’s competitive job market, a college education often does not translate directly into job opportunities, so millennials have taken it upon themselves to expand their network and create these opportunities. Self-education is another big reason events are becoming increasingly more attractive. Learning industry specific information from a professional speaking at these events can help one gain the knowledge needed to give an applicant a competitive advantage in an interview. As hoteliers, we need to ensure our meeting and event space remains attractive to this demographic for continued success.
Want meeting or event space to stand out to millennials? Ensure that technology is up to date. This includes good quality high-speed Wi-Fi, projectors that do not require bloaty software downloads to connect and numerous, easily accessible power outlets. If a VGA cable is the only method of connecting a laptop to a projector, then we have a problem. We should constantly be checking our equipment to make sure it is still functioning properly and have a thorough understanding of how it works. If our equipment is not easy to use, we should invest in upgrading it as soon as possible because prices have gone down considerably over the years.
Food and beverage can be a huge selling point for a potential millennial client. Gone are the days where frozen foods are acceptable. Quality product is expected at every dining occasion. Healthy options are also prized among this demographic. While comfort foods are still appreciated, ensure our food and beverage team is keeping up with the latest healthy living trends and adjusting their menus accordingly. Let your chef be creative if you have one. Some of the most inspired ideas stem from thinking outside the norm.
When millennials are looking for the right place to host or attend their meetings and events, the destination as a whole is a top contributing factor in their decision-making process. Does the hotel have a great bar where they can grab a happy hour drink after the meeting? As we discussed earlier, networking is everything to millennials, so let’s make sure to highlight any amenity that promotes it, even if we think it is not relevant to the meeting or event. If our hotel is limited on amenities, then we should provide information on our local area and anything that could be attractive to a first-time visitor. Millennials work hard, but they also like to play hard. Even if they are looking to host a business meeting, they will also be exploring what to do once their meeting is finished.
It’s a highly competitive market, so here are some potential differentiators that today’s millennial meeting planners might like to use:
- Use non-traditional spaces as opposed to “meeting rooms.”
- Be willing to move furniture around to create flexibility.
- Use digital dry erase boards that can be connected to a laptop.
- Change up the food to local, authentic cuisine that does not mirror standard hotel fare.
- Use audience polling and real-time analytics.
- Create an activity that benefits the local community.
While some of the over generalizations about millennials have roots in truth, we need to do our best to not assume things when it comes to this generation. We must avoid the common misconceptions and realize that just because technology may be the word we associate most often with them, millennials actually prize face-to-face interaction at meetings and events. The common fear that this tech-savvy generation will lead to a decline in meetings and events is simply not true. Live video streaming may have built upon what video meetings first brought to the table, but nothing will ever replace genuine human interaction.
Prepare yourselves. We are in the final stretch of 2016, and we have already heard rumblings of an uptick in group sales for August and September. While calendar comps can have an impact on year-over-year business and the fourth quarter could reverse an uptrend, news of increased group bookings is always welcome. Use this information to ensure you capture your fair share as we come out of the summer months and finish the year out strong.
Robert A. Rauch is CEO of the hotel management and consulting firm RAR Hospitality. Rauch is an internationally acclaimed hotelier with more than 40 years of industry experience. RAR Hospitality has four independent hotels in its portfolio with an additional property under development.
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