From Boomers to Zoomers: What’s Working Now for Different Generations of Event Attendees
Like many charitable events, the annual event hosts the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra opening gala offers a variety of ticket tiers and event options that appeal to donors of different income levels. The natural result? Four separate dinners, each attracting different generations of attendees – and the design team from Blueprint Studios takes these demographics into account when designing each space.
For example, an intimate area hosts dinner earlier in the evening and is decorated in a classic color palette that may appeal to older attendees. The more affordable premises, meanwhile, have a more casual, hors d’oeuvre-focused reception with a slightly bohemian theme, while owners who only have concert tickets head straight to a festive outdoor after-party with food stations from local eateries. While guests can of course choose what ticket tier they want, the event is a great example of how to appeal to different age groups at one meeting – without sacrificing the experience for anyone.
The key is not relying too much on generalizations, the Austin-based entrepreneur and marketer points out ChadPrice.
“We often stereotype certain population groups and make assumptions about their needs, wants and characteristics,” he explains. “There are often more similarities between different generations than we may realize, and finding common ground can help create connections between different groups.” People and enable a successful event. Look for shared priorities, passions, and goals in event attendees and make sure to highlight them.”
amanda maCEO of Innovative Marketing Group in Los Angeles also advises starting with the similarities. Every generation, regardless of age, is drawn to experiential elements that create lasting memories, she says, along with networking opportunities (“though preferred methods may differ,” Ma notes) and a great guest experience. Other similarities? An interest in “diversity and inclusivity, ensuring a welcoming environment for all attendees and purpose-driven events that resonate across generations.”
so, how Do Are you starting to create an experience that appeals to different age groups—without relying on stereotypes? Ma suggests conducting audience research to understand demographics and preferences and offering flexible, customizable programs that cater to diverse interests. Similarly, “Create thoughtful communications that resonate with every generation and focus on the participants’ travel experience.”
To set some general rules of thumb, we sat down with Ma, Price, and other events experts to get some quick tips on what they think is currently working for cross-generational events.
According to Ma, Gen Z (born 1997-2010) tends to prioritize “immersive experiences, interactive technology, and sustainability initiatives.” This is the most diverse demographic in history, with almost 50% of young Americans identify as BIPOC and almost 20% identify as LGBT. This group in particular seeks some level of interaction and ownership at their events, and are most likely to be passionate and open about their values and the brands and companies they are associated with.
Although there’s a lot of overlap with the younger group, Millennials (1981-1996) may place more emphasis on “personalization, meaningful connections, and opportunities for self-expression,” Ma adds. The generation goes on.
In terms of programming, providing a mix of session formats and topics, as well as a diverse range of speakers, can create a well-rounded program that appeals to all age groups. Carissa Krusefounder of Carissa Kruse Weddings in Denver adds, “Gen Z and Millennials often look for events that are more casual and have a focus on experiences and technology. On the other hand, the generation prefers However, when you look at the commonalities between the generations, you get the point: all four groups are looking for events that are meaningful and entertaining.”
When it comes to event spaces, younger generations tend to want “repurposed boutique spaces – old warehouses, silos, packaging plants, etc,” he says Nikki Yessenior events planner based in Los Angeles event solutions. “The more unique the space, the better the story – the more appealing it is to them. The venue itself is part of the experience, while traditional generations prefer hotels and banquet rooms.”
“Young businesses are choosing to schedule their events on a weekday rather than a weekend,” adds Yep. “The most popular days were Thursday and Friday.”
“When it comes to technology, you should think about how to make it accessible and appealing to all generations,” says Kruse. Don’t assume older generations don’t want any technology at all – just make sure there are clear instructions and a clear purpose. “For example, you could use tablets to allow guests to interact with each other or even play games. You can also set up a tech-equipped photo booth with live streaming capabilities to keep the younger generation engaged and entertained.”
Yep adds that younger generations tend to have certain expectations when it comes to technology integration. “Social hashtags printed on photo backgrounds or on signage, social media handles, and even QR codes replacing handout brochures are common at younger generation events,” she says, adding, “You have one higher standard for screen quality expectations (think). LED versus projectors) and innovative use within the event (think green screen photo booths).”
Make sure to customize your marketing and communication approaches to effectively target your desired audience. This can be achieved through the use of social media platforms, the use of email marketing and the implementation of targeted advertising methods to target specific age groups or communities. Strive to formulate messages that will resonate with each demographic and emphasize the specific elements of the event that will appeal to them.
“Obviously it’s important to be fair to everyone if possible, but don’t look too much at age. Trying too hard to borrow phrases, language, and buzzwords that are meant for younger or older people can be really off-putting and miss the point,” advises Price. “Be authentic and avoid assumptions.”
Food and Beverages:
“The younger generations are all about experiences and new and innovative approaches to everything – especially food,” says Yep. “They love food science experiences: think customizable, made-to-order products with a twist. Action stations are our focal point for the younger generation, while for the traditional generation we choose a fixed menu (buffet or plate). In order to make both possible, we often offer a mixture of action stations and a buffet.”
As for drinks, “Mixology and craft cocktails (or mocktails) are all the rage with the younger generations, while the older generations enjoy beer and wine,” adds Yep. “To achieve both, we often offer a few select craft cocktails, local craft beers, as well as traditional beer and wine options.”
Entertainment and Activities:
Aside from the obvious differences in musical tastes, Yep points to a few other differences that she’s noticed. Older generations may be drawn to entertainment options such as fortune tellers, cartoonists, traditional photo booths and live music, “while younger generations like more excursion-style activities and entertainment,” she says, adding, “They prefer DJ and mixed music, green screen.” Photo booths and unique options that enhance and enhance their life experiences.”
A good way to accommodate multiple age groups? Offer a wide range of choices. “We recently did a company outing that included golf for those who wanted and off-road driving in the desert for others,” Yep cites as an example.
Jay HarrisonOwner and Founder of personal parties in Australia likes to incorporate a mix of activities, interactive elements and types of entertainment. And sometimes it can be fun to explore the generation gaps! “I remember organizing a family reunion from ages 6 to 86. We had the theme ‘Through the Decades’ and each generation was responsible for an activity associated with their decade,” she recalls. “The result was a complete success. Every age group interacts, learns and has fun together.”
Looking back, Harrison adds, “I believe the future of event planning lies in embracing diversity and creating experiences that connect everyone. But most of all, it’s about creating a sense of belonging and making everyone feel like the event is tailor-made for them.”