Liesl Leary-Perez, VP of Corporate Marketing at Hubilo, explains the changes that Generation Z will soon bring to businesses.
Move over Millennials, Generation Z is here! Those born between the mid-’90s and mid-’00s form over a quarter (27%) of the US population and will make up almost a third of the workforce by the next decade. Despite their nickname, these ‘Zoomers’ won’t settle for a standard webinar or stilted interactions with the same faces on a screen. They will expect memorable experiences like never before, driving businesses to reinvent their event strategies now and get ready for what’s to come.
New tech calls for new approaches
If millennials were the first true digital natives, Gen Z capitalised on all the tech that the previous generation built and expanded it to build the virtual communities they comfortably inhabit today. They weren’t just exposed to digital technologies like smartphones and virtual reality, in fact, nearly half of them prefer virtual interaction to face-to-face communication.
The rise of the virtual community is a hallmark of Web 3.0 and it changes the dynamics of how organisations need to engage with their audiences and is already being demonstrated by some forward-thinking companies. Peloton, for instance, isn’t just valuable because they build a better exercise bike. Their value is in the community they connect with avid fans of their exercise content. The trajectory of nonfungible token (NFT) projects is largely directed and co-created by the community that it nurtures.
What matters in our brave, new, virtual world is the ability to nurture the borderless, immersive communities where anyone can be who they want, when they want, wherever they want. One-way webinars aren’t going to cut it with the Gen Z crowd, not now and certainly not as virtual technology becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous.
Catering to a more experience-focused generation
Gen Z cares more about worthwhile experiences than material items or selfie opportunities. In fact, research reveals that 89% of Gen Zers consider being present and enjoying the actual experience more important than collecting images to post on social media. For the events industry, this will mean that events need to be experiences worth their participation – not just their attendance.
Gamification will be more important than ever to satisfy interaction-hungry Gen Zers and facilitate fun, seamless and immersive event experiences that they demand. A recycled Q&A is unlikely to get them to look up from their smartphones and it may even make them leave the event early. This is why companies are now engaging in events platforms over traditional webinar and video conferencing platforms to nurture their communities. With engagement and gamification features to encourage healthy competitions amongst in-person and virtual participants for coveted prizes, companies provide real-world value to the communities they are nurturing.
It’s not just igniting the competitive spark that will increase engagement for Gen Z. It’s also the multiple opportunities to network, learn, create friendships and job offers that events can give.
Selecting a platform that allows virtual audiences to switch between different speaker sessions and breakout rooms, engage with other attendees on virtual chat, win the audience’s approval by sharing their humour through meme-culture is critical to hold the attention of the Gen Z attendee. The importance of making the physical event space equally engaging and clearly signposted should also not be underestimated.
As for authenticity, businesses can wow their young attendees with the atmosphere, and not with an overwhelming amount of shamelessly branded and completely irrelevant product placement. Integrating sponsors in thoughtful ways can go a long way in ensuring the event feels authentic, but only if partners share the same purpose and values. If a Gen Z attendee’s BS radar gets triggered, they could leave your community forever. The same goes for dishonest communication through the wrong channels. While Gen Z loves social media, they are increasingly more vigilant against posts that are too polished or event invites that aren’t personalised.
Caring about their interests and values
Organisations that can show they truly care and listen to what interests Gen Z will reap the biggest benefits. The newest generation is more racially and ethnically diverse and naturally concerned with social matters of injustice or inequality. They also worry about climate change and the negative impact business practices can have on the environment. Companies will therefore need to take a position on these issues rather than remaining silent and create more inclusive and sustainable events to attract and build a thriving community.
Get ready. Here comes Gen Z
It won’t be long until Gen Z becomes the most dominant workforce and the mainstream adoption of Web 3.0 will decentralise applications, changing the way that we navigate and operate the internet. While there are advantages and disadvantages to the decentralised model, it is clear that companies who successfully build their communities now will be better prepared for the uncertain future ahead. With the right hybrid events platform to create community-building events, leaders can win over the next generation who will inherit and further expand the virtual world, and future-proof their organisations.