The idea was simple. Instead of inviting the usual suspects on a panel to let them talk about how bad the financial crises hit us all, a group of students should discuss the future of the meetings and events industry. What are their values and beliefs and how will they shape the industry after graduation. ‘Gen Y Looks To The Future’ was the name of the session and it was part of the PCMA Annual Meeting 2011 Las Vegas, NV.
Originally, I had planned to invite ten students, but there was only space for four, so we agreed on inviting six. In order to have a representative group on stage, I was looking for three ladies and three gentlemen, however, amongst the 20 candidates, who were nominated by their lecturers, only two guys applied. We ended up with one male and five females on stage. With respect to the demographics of the applicants that is still representative. It might indicate a change in future leadership. In my home country, Germany, politicians are currently discussing a women’s quota for management positions. I guess, if we wait a couple of years until Gen Y has settled into the industry, so a quota might not be necessary.
Another selection criteria was their geographical location. We had a local from Nevada, two students from North Carolina, one from the D.C., one from Florida and a fellow student of mine from Scotland.
Moderated by the President and CEO of MeetingMatrix Int., Jmîchaeĺe Keller, who did an amazing job interviewing the students, the panel agreed that sustainability, CSR and being ‘green’ are values, which will have a great impact on their future work. Being a member of Gen Y means growing up with an environmental consciousness. Climate change became part of our education, when we were still in high school. Renea Anderson, postgrad student at UCF, said CSR and a sustainability policy would be non negotiable, if one wanted to offer her a job.
Although technology had been a part of Gen Y for most of their lives, they still value face-to-face experiences. However, instead of investing ones time and money in a conference that might not meet the expectations, future generations will specifically brose the internet for content, attendees and activities of events they find interesting, in order to manage their time more efficiently. The content of conferences can easily be delivered via the Internet. This gives conference attendees the opportunity to concentrate on social interaction with other attendees, making a conference the highlight of a much longer process. The event will start months before in the cloud leading up to the meeting. It will then be discusses and evaluated online afterwards and finally start all over again, if it is an annual event.
Finally, the students were asked about their views on business etiquette and their preferred way of communication. A common prejudice is that Gen Y txts, lols and :D, but the panel had a different opinion. They argued that there is a strict distinction between professional and private communication standards. While this generation brought tweeting, texting and the use of Facebook to perfection in terms of efficiency, the student panel conformed to keep to appropriate and polite forms of address, when communicating on a professional basis. One should address others, as one would like others to address oneself, so to say.
Renea is now working for MeetingMatrix and my friend Thorben and I are looking forward to an internship at their headquarters in New Hampshire this summer. As far as I can tell, the future looks bright.
Many thanks to the PCMA Education Foundation for making this possible through the Student Planner Of The Year Scholarship Program. A special thank you goes to Erin Shamus, who took great care of me during the lead up to the event.