Early this week, I was invited to present on a series of Millennial topics at the PCMA’s Convening Leaders Conference that was held in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The topic of my presentations ranged from “What Millennials Want” to “Attracting Millennials to Your Event” with some great discussion and comments in between. And it was nothing short of an extraordinary experience.
Having the opportunity to speak at a conference that easily had the number of participants ranging into the thousands was an absolute pleasure. Once you add meeting Chris Brogan, yes, I’m taller than Chris, and meeting Eric Ly, one of the co-founders of LinkedIn and current Founder and CEO of Presdo, to hearing the phenomenal key note speech given by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, on delivering happiness, amongst other things, you end up with one awesome experience.
Not to mention, finally having the opportunity to meet Jeff Hurt and Dave Lutz, which are two gentlemen you have to meet and follow and connect with, was great. A thousand thank you’s for everything you two have done to bring me to the PCMA’s event.
And as great as all this was, hearing the thoughts and notions and views many of the PCMA participants had towards Millennials was just as extraordinary and downright fascinating. From the lightheartded twentysomething jokes Chris was throwing around to the more serious misconceptions and erroneous understandings, I could not believe how misunderstood and elusive and impossible and delusional many believe today’s youth to be. It’s as if no one had an true grasp on who and what the Millennials are all about.
Shockingly, the answers to the pains and the problems everyone had was only seemingly apparent to, well, only myself. And no one else seemingly had any sort of plausible solution to attracting Millennials to just about anything. Admittedly, all the problems would not and could not be solved in the brief discussions that were taking place. But at no one point in the repetitive discussion did anyone even come close to some sort of meaningful insight. Even at the heed of my own personal Millennial insights, experience and expertise.
What I quickly began to realize was the deeply rooted systemic issues that lie within current organizations, associations and just about anything else currently looking to acquire and attract Millennials. Much of which is encapsulated in utter disregard, narcissism and brutish thinking towards this young immense segment of the population.
And one moment single-handedly defined all this negative sentiment. It culminated in a comment for the emcee of the particular presentation, who is a professor at UNLV (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), in the brief discussion we had after. The comment itself was as follows: (laughingly) “Like I tell all my students, before you think you’re going anywhere you’ll have to look up at our Baby Boomer butts. Because we’re not leaving anytime soon.” I could not help but be speechless, shocked and in absolute amazement to this type of rhetoric.
In no way am I attempting to villainize anyone here. And not to sound to brutish or harsh, this dinosaur thinking will leave a generation of Millennials scorned. And when they do attempt to understand Millennials, they fail to answer “what’s next?”. The dynamics of this issue are so profound that it is causing many Millennials to answer Millennial issues with Baby Boomer thoughts, as we’ve been lead to believe they have all the answers. As one Millennial, a president from a student organization, asked “we are on social media but we can’t get more students to join”. The Baby Boomer answer they received was “it’s all about repetition. You just have to be repetitive.” Though an element, that answer could not be more farther from the truth.
Attracting Millennials and being successful with Millennials and maintaining any sort of relationship with Millennials must go beyond the Baby-Boomer-only and narcissistic approach. Yes, aspects such as mentoring are imperative and there is no denying that. However, to bridge the gap, you cannot built this bridge from only one side. Reserve-mentoring is just as imperative to have within this current environment, as we are at a state in time where there are massive, differing and defining characteristics between today’s young and old.
What has manifested here is that many Millennials are beginning to say what Baby Boomers want to hear in hopes to being accepted by them but yet, they will act completely different and to the contrary of their words. It has to be said that though the Boomers do have great amounts of experience they do not have all the answers, which is very frightening to them but ultimately problematic to everyone. And no where is this more evident than when they attempt to attract Millennials to their organizations and associations and events.
Fascinatingly, the dynamics and paradigms that exist within the Millennial environment are more simple than anyone chooses to believe. I often get asked how to use social media for the purpose of attraction. And though I hate to answer a question with a question, my answer almost every time is “are you making it status-update worthy?”. Amazingly, many do not understand the significance that exists behind a Millennial’s social profile. We have defined ourselves with social media. You have to make whatever you are delivering something worthy of our self-defining. No updates are merely random occurrences. They are some of the most strategic actions we take and act on within social media and our everyday lives.
No one wants to draw attention or attraction to something that will be perceived as a damaging component to who they are. Millennials will often say that their Facebook profiles are often there personal spaces and they don’t want to be part of your fan page or intruded on and so on. The reason they don’t want to be part of your fan page is not due to the fact that they won’t “like” it, it’s due to the fact that them “liking” it is perceived by them to negatively affect and impact who they are. And how they are viewed by others.
The Millennials will unquestioningly join and become part of something should they deem it in a positive and beneficial light. But with the current excessive dinosaur modes of thought and narcissistic thinking on part of the Baby Boomers, do not be surprised or shocked to see the Millennials turn away en masse from joining these types of organizations and associations and events. Millennials believe in creating mutually beneficial and positive relationships. So make them a part of the process. Attracting Millennials does not have to be a difficult process. You are just making it a difficult process. And should you decide to disregard these words, just keep in mind that if you want to attract Millennials, you have to think like a Millennial. There is no other way around it.