I might be on Facebook and LinkedIn, but there's no way around it: OMG, I do learn differently from my 20-something peers. And clearly, the way we communicate before, during, and after our meetings is evolving in new and sometimes uncomfortable ways.
Take for example the session I attended at the ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) annual meeting last August about incorporatinginto your meetings and events. Each table was tasked with coming up with an “engagement calendar” for a meeting, the multimedia equivalent of a marketing plan. I had three young women at my table, each from a different association, with whom I was anxious to interact. But they were all lamenting the fact that their older members, and in some cases their management, were not on Facebook or Twitter and that it was impossible to get them to use it. A couple of them ridiculed people who wanted to use the phone. But the comment that got me was when one of the women said, “Why are older people so stubborn?” And she turned to me and said, “No offense.”
No offense taken, because despite my baby-boomer age, I put in my time on social networks, although I would hardly call myself a social media maven like my fellow editor, Sue Pelletier (also over 40, but a millennial in disguise — check out her blog at blog.meetingsnet.com/face2face/).
More recently, at a breakout at the Virtual Edge Summit in January, I realized that because the event was streamed live, many of the speakers aimed their presentations at the virtual audience as well as the physical audience. That meant, in most cases, the speaker had to stay glued to her mark to remain in camera range. It also meant that some presenters stuck to the “virtual meeting rule” that pertains to electronic learning, which dictates that they change things up every five to 10 minutes to keep their audience engaged (and off of five other screens or files open on their computers).
Whoa, wait a minute. With all those interjections and forced interactions with the physical and tweeting audience, they lost me, someone who had come to learn new information and not just to interact. I found the regular back and forth to be a total and utter distraction.
So here's my advice about how to attract attendees of all ages: Offer phone, online, and even fax registrations. At your educational conferences, no more beginner, intermediate, or advanced tracks. Label your sessions by age, mind-set, or learning style. And train your speakers to cater to each.
And then go “friend” your old high-school sweetheart.