The latest buzz in the consumer marketing field is the concept of generational marketing. Understanding the needs of each demographic group can help us as meeting professionals apply these techniques to our attendance-boosting efforts.

The Matures or the Silents, born between 1921 and 1945, comprise 58 million people — many of whom are still in the work force. Association members and meeting attendees in this category may continue to work at least part time and stay active in their profession, even though they might be beyond the traditional retirement age. In all probability, they represent the generation that was instrumental in the formative stages of your organization or early annual meetings. In some professions, members from this demographic group still represent a significant percentage of the annual meeting attendees.

As a whole, this demographic group has not embraced new technology, although it is interesting to note that the younger members of the Matures who have accepted technology as a part of their lives are among the fastest-growing groups of Internet users.

Members of this group prefer to receive information in a simple, straightforward, and summarized fashion. Direct mail and any other forms of written communication remain their preferred method of receiving information.

The Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, account for more than 76 million members of the population. This demographic group is the largest and most influential of all generations, and it makes up the majority of the leadership of the U.S. — culturally, politically, and academically. The majority of those leaders who were — and continue to be — instrumental in the transformational years of many associations are boomers. They are still active helping to maintain your organization's key position of leadership, expertise, and advocacy within your industry.

Boomers have for the most part embraced technology, from traditional e-mail to the newest developments, such as blogs. They respond to direct mail, as well as to electronic communications, such as e-mail and Internet advertising. Boomers are lifelong learners who continue to attend meetings and exhibitions and rely on networking in both their personal and professional lives. They will make up the majority of meeting attendees for many years to come.

Born in the 1960s and 1970s, the 51 million members of Generation X make up, along with the boomers, the majority of many organizations' meeting attendees. If they haven't already, they soon will take over leadership in their professional associations.

With all the changes they have seen and experienced within the world and the workplace, they are leery of rules and authority. Generation Xs are not joiners, as are boomers, and their top priority is to balance work and personal life. Given these characteristics, this group requires more marketing efforts. Organizations must prove to Generation Xs the value of attending meetings and conventions.

Having been raised with technology as part of their lives, their laptops, BlackBerries, and other tech tools are their constant companions. They prefer straightforward, factual information in sound bites and value social and professional events with their fellow Gen Xs that are topic-focused. E-mail, Internet-based communications, and any form of multimedia are the best ways to reach this group with your marketing message.

The 80 million members of Millennials, or Generation Y, who were born between 1980 and 1999, regularly challenge authority and the old way of doing business. Technologically savvy, this group is more comfortable with change than the generations before it. Multimedia, e-mail, and the plethora of new online tools such as social networking Web sites and blogs are their favored communications vehicles.

Jane Dahlroth, CEM, CMP, a 27-year meetings industry veteran, is vice president for JR Daggett & Associates, a meeting and exhibit management and consulting firm with offices in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas. Reach her at jane@jrdaggett.com.

Related articles: Common Mistakes for Marketing Meetings