digital, but Gen Z was born into digital. They
were born into a time when virtual reality
games are real. They had augmented reality
storybooks, point your phone at a book and
a whole storyboard pops with characters
dancing round the real world as you turn the
pages of the book. This is their interactive
world. As Gen Z enters the workplace in
huge numbers, you can’t afford not to have
highly interactive meetings. Gen Z is the
death of two dimensional meetings.”
David Stillman and his Gen Z son Jonah
Stillman took a deep dive into Gen Z for
their latest book, Gen Z Work. Gen Z
doesn’t just expect technology at work
and at meetings, they assume it will part of
the mix. For kids who learned to navigate
a tablet as they learned to talk, Internet
access, of course, is a must.
“We have only known phones that are
smart and have always been able to get our
hands on any bit of information 24/7,” Jonah
recently told the Society for Human Re-
source Development. “Since ninth grade, I
Gen Z attendees bring the same expec-
tation of a guide on the side to meetings.
Information is no longer the key to success
because anyone can get any odd bit of in-
formation at any time from anywhere. The
key to success is turning information into
something useful and putting it to work
efficiently, effectively and quickly.
Reality Is Hybrid
The need for improved access and more
transparency have pushed planners to put
more and more events online, whether
streamed live or made available for later
viewing. Gen Z is taking the combination of
real world and virtual worlds a step farther.
They live what David Stillman calls a phigital live, an ever-changing combination of
physical and digital.
When it comes to shopping, Gen Z draws
no distinction between the physical store
and the virtual store. Shopping is shopping
and one channel is as good as another,
depending on the time, the place and the
need. But digital is easier.
In education, Gen Z sees no distinction
between learning in a physical class room
or online. It’s all learning and the more
you can learn, the more
likely you are to succeed.
And it’s a touchpoint for
If story books and
cereal boxes can include
digital elements that add
to the experience, so can
meeting materials. Meeting programs can, and
should, include hot links
to speaker bios, websites
and videos, whether the
program is viewed online,
in an e-mail or on paper.
are used to interacting
digitally with the real
world around them, they expect to do the
same thing at a meeting,” Washington said.
“Gen Z is all about immersion and inter-
acting with their environment. Merging the
physical and the digital takes learning a step
Phigital programming is already a reality.
Washington works with library systems to
bring famous authors to local libraries via
social media and video. Some planners
already use video links for presenters who
unexpectedly cannot make an event in
person. Adjusting the planning process
to include digital presentations from the
other side of the country—or the world—is
an easy next step. Gen Zer’s expect it, and
attendees of every generation benefit.
Engaging Gen Z
Gen Z’s native-born dexterity putting
technology to work is a valuable asset for
planners who are willing to engage. So
are many of the group’s other common
traits, including curiosity, drive, ambition,
self-motivation, do-it-yourself learning
and practicality. Gen Z came of age during
the Great Recession. They know first-hand
that there are winners and losers in life
and they want to come out winners. They
expect to invest time, energy and money in
their own futures, but they want to see the
“If all you pitch for your event is educa-
tion, they are going to tell
you they already learn
anything from program-
ming to baking on You-
Tube,” Stillman said. “If
you have never been to a
meeting before, the ben-
efits may not be obvious.
You have to connect the
dots very clearly between
the time and money they
are investing in attending
the meeting and what
they will get out of it.
Show them the practical
benefits of attending and
you won’t be able to keep
It is easy to focus on how different Gen Z attendees can be from other generations. But they share one key attribute: youth.
No, your Boomer, Gen X and Millennial
attendees aren’t young, but they were
once. And many of the same things that
appealed to your older attendees when
they were 20-somethings appeal to Gen
Zers, but with a few tech tweaks.
Instagram It: Visuals have been key
event messaging channels for as long as
there have been posters and flyers. The
visual equivalent for Gen Z is apps like
Instagram and Snapchat. Turn your Gen Z
attendees into advocates by making sure
your experiences and content provide Ins-
tagramMoments they can share with peers.
Time Is Still Money: Gen Zers may be
young, but they are as crunched for time
as the rest of us. If they are going to invest
their precious time in your event, it better
be worth it. They have already learned
that you get just one chance to make a
good first impression.
Blend Business and Leisure: Remember the excitement of your first glimpse of
Orlando? Chicago? Boston? San Diego? Or
any other new city where you were attending an event for the first time? Wherever
you are meeting, your Gen Z attendees
probably haven’t been there before. Boost
your event appeal by building in time to
escape the convention center and explore
that new destination!