Young professional events can be super tricky to plan, because of the wide range of individuals attending (often anywhere from 21 to 35), varying from junior, to mid, to sometimes even senior-level professionals. Considering that you’re probably marketing to both Baby Boomers and Generation X (if they’re controlling the budget for professional development and other events for their staff), and Generations Y and Z (yes, the first-born of this group are now 22!), it can be very challenging to make planning decisions.
Having attended and planned a number of these meetings and events for this demographic, here are some dos and don’ts to consider when planning your next event. If you’re in the association management market, you can also take a look at ways to attract millennials to association events.
Do make sure that you have a broad range of professionals from different levels of their career at your event, even if it is geared toward young professionals. It is disappointing to come to a networking event to find only other young professionals. Sure, it’s great for meeting new people, having relatable discussions and maybe even finding some new business opportunities, but having some of your organization’s senior volunteers or ambassadors there will significantly increase attendees’ ROI.
Don’t serve pizza. Young professionals may have a tight budget, but for many, a soggy slice of free pizza is not a big draw. We eat with our eyes, and are all about getting the right pics and snaps, so if you do decide to serve pizza, make sure it’s Instagram-worthy!
Do have some kind of get-to-know you offering, but not the classic ice-breaker. Whether it’s something happening in the room (entertainment, for example), or a brief talk that will encourage attendees to ask questions and have a discussion amongst themselves , this provides people who may not yet be comfortable with networking with a few opening lines, but doesn’t feel forced for those that would prefer to do their own thing.
Don’t underestimate the range of people that may attend. As mentioned above, expect different levels of professionals, and ensure that your content is appropriate. The same content for a 21 year old fresh out of school is too junior for someone who is 35 but who may be new to a particular industry.
Do consider what their first and last impression will be. In this demographic, you might only get one chance to impress, and if you don’t, they’ll move on to the next best thing. Keep in mind that you’re targeting an experience-driven generation, and use that to create more memorable events.
Don’t charge more than a small registration fee, or better yet, make your event free.Even the difference between a free event and one that is $25 will have a big impact on their decision to attend. If it’s $25 for one evening of networking, they need to know that they’re getting value from it, so ensure you’re clear about the ROI in your marketing strategy.
Overall, you may not be able to have something for everyone at each of your young professional events – but simply ensuring you are being very clear about what the event is and its expected outcomes goes a long way!