“What’s in it for me?” That’s a question Millennials are asking as they decide on upcoming conference opportunities. Meeting organizers, on the other hand, are more focused on their own goals and objectives than those of potential attendees. According to recent research by Loughborough University and Imago, more than four-fifths of the students and delegates surveyed said personal career development was a major motivator when it came to getting them to want to attend meetings. While the survey brief didn’t provide the percentage, it did say this “wasn’t highly rated as a motivator by organizers.”

This is just one of several disconnects uncovered in the study of 430 students, delegates, and event organizers of all stripes. The aim of the study was to determine whether meeting organizers “are doing enough to inspire the leaders of tomorrow.”

The students, whose average age was 23, and the delegates, with an average age of 38, say their main objectives in attending meetings are to learn from experts and to gain the knowledge and connections they need to help them move their careers forward. To accomplish these goals, they have to fully engage in the meeting. However, just over half the delegates and only 37 percent of students said they felt fully encouraged to take part in the meetings they attend.

Likewise, they always see an opportunity for creativity and innovative thinking at meetings.

The underlying message, says the report, is that “Millennials want to learn something valuable and develop relationships that will benefit them. A meeting has to be linked to what they want to achieve, not the organization.” However, it also concludes, “An organization’s vision and goals are a high priority for organizers but a low priority for attendees who want to be recognized and to build confidence in their abilities. Students want to learn how to use their strengths to their own advantage.”

Other key findings:

• Respondents prefer offsite locations for building relationships.

• Content should be relevant and interactive, and use powerful images and storytelling.

• Sessions should be short and tightly focused.

• Respondents said they prefer inspirational content over content that’s more task-related. They also would rather interact with each other than with the speaker. They value passion and enthusiasm in speakers over their expertise or innovation in the field.

• Technology and gamification can help make the experience more interactive—77 percent of students and 75 percent of delegates like interactive games at meetings, though only 66 percent of organizers include these at their events. Millennial respondents also appreciate games that reward winners with prizes, awards, and certificates.

Social media is good for raising awareness about a meeting, said 65 percent of students, 61 percent of delegates, and 51 percent of organizers. However, too many organizers again are focusing on their own goals, not those of potential attendees, with their social media messaging. “Posting information for its own sake is not sufficient. Engagement is key and sharable content which raises awareness of key issues has a much wider impact with Millennials.”

The study report concludes: “We asked if the meetings industry is doing enough to inspire our future business leaders and the answer is clearly not! There is a disconnect between what organizers think are the most important factors and what Millennials are actually inspired by. We need to have a stronger collective approach, as an industry, to the objectives of meetings and events, to recognize both the objectives of the organizer and the delegate and whether the delivery achieves both in equal measure. Otherwise, we are simply facilitators of a product and not the creators of inspiring experiences that we can and should be.

The research was conducted via focus groups, face-to-face interviews, and an online survey. Download the full study here (free registration required).