PCMA day 3: I have met the aliens, and I may just be one of them

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So, here's a quick skip on the session I just went to about making meetings relevant to Generation Y, aka Gen Why, as speaker Eric Chester called them.

But first, his best quote: "It used to be you'd say, 'if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.' Now it's, 'if you do what you've always done, you're out of business.'" Loved that one.

Anyway, the Whys are impatient, because they've grown up in a world where people are rewarded with speed: fast lanes, fast delivery, express check-in for hotels' preferred guest members, etc.

Another good quote: "We've given birth to a generation of type A++ stress puppies." The older generations tend to be analog, chronological, like a reel-to-reel tape player, where the Whys are more like iPods who are used to random. "If you make a bad choice, it's not a matter of consequences anymore," said Chester. "It's control, alt, delete." And he's right.

And meetings are pretty analog, we have to admit. One thing follows another, we have a template we use so we know what to expect. But for Whys, who are impatient, he said, this is boring. He said one study found that Whys would rather have pain inflicted on them than be bored.

They're also used to active learning, lots of breaks, lots of interaction, and they want to be entertained as well as enlightened. When they don't get it, they get bored and disengaged.

Ways to connect your meetings with the youngsters (and doesn't that sound like an oldster word?):

Invite them to be a part of everything in the meeting, including acting as speakers.

Give them mentors to show them where the cool stuff is.

Let them be a part of the entertainment (karaoke in the lobby? Not so sure about that suggestion!).

They're skeptical, so don't overpromise and underdeliver.

Be honest and truthful with them.

Make it relevant to them, and explain why the meeting matters (I'd say if they can't figure it out on their own, you're not making it relevant enough).

Create community (can use Facebook, MySpace, etc., to connect them with your meeting).

Level status barriers: This one is interesting. He said ribbons serve to isolate the new from the experienced. He had a cool suggestion: Instead of ribbons, have people write down something like what their best rock and roll experience was, or something related to your meeting's theme. Then people can talk about that; your experience and committee membership etc., will come out in conversation. You don't need to wear it on your chest.

Shorter sessions, shorter meetings.

All of which left me thinking I'm a Why in a Boomer body. So I went up afterward and asked him what the difference is, really. We all lived through what they grew up with and want the same things. His answer was, I thought, profound and profoundly simple:

"The difference is you'll both get bored, but you'll put up with it. They'll leave."

Update: Chester had mentioned during the session that the PowerPoint he was showing us that we thought was way cool (oh yeah? Not me) is something he'd never show during his sessions for young people; he had something much more dynamic for them. While I was waiting to speak with him after the session, I overheard him say to someone that actually he has found it useful to show this version to kids, because they have told him that it helps them understand how their parents and other older people look at/feel about their generation. Talk about a reversal.

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