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How to reach Gen X and Gen Y

By 2015, we could have five generations of attendees on the trade show floor—the Silent Generation (age 69 and up), Baby Boomers (age 50-68), Generation X (age 33-49), Generation Y (age 17-32) and the up-and-coming Generation Z (those born after 1997). Exhibitors striving to reach such a varied audience need to use communication techniques targeted towards their intended audiences in order to be successful.

For the purpose of this newsletter, we’ll discuss Gen X and Gen Y—more specifically, how to reach them and what they may be looking for in a trade show. Keep reading to find out more.

Gen X and Gen Y: What is it they’re looking for?
The exhibition industry is paying close attention to Gen X and Gen Y, and for good reason. Combined, they represent close to 57% of the U.S. labor force according to a 2012 Catalyst report on generations in the workplace. Here are some things to note:

Generation X
Gen X’ers make up approximately one third of the workforce. They have been described as environmentally aware, self-reliant, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, and cynical toward government and corporations. They are not “joiners” and they juggle many commitments—careers, family, volunteering, etc. For these reasons, exhibitors need to show Gen X’ers that a trade show is going to be worth their while, which is why it is important to communicate the benefits up front.

Gen X’ers value education, diversity and social responsibility, so pique their interest by providing an opportunity to learn or share your company’s similar values. Knowledgeable speakers and networking opportunities will appeal to this generation. Consider hosting a lunch-‘n-learn or seminar and invite Gen X’ers ahead of time to engage with you. And don’t forget to entice attendees with a thank-you gift for stopping by—a technology organizer case or stylus pen may be just the thing for this generation of techy multi-taskers.

Generation Y
Gen Y’ers, also known as Generation Me, account for approximately one fourth of the U.S. labor force. They are described as “super consumers” who are constantly online, optimistic about the future, narcissistic and self-expressive. And good news for trade show exhibitors—they love connectivity, social networks and live events. In fact, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research has compared this group to Boomers when it comes to its enthusiasm for attending trade shows.

A few things to note about Gen Y’ers … they will likely be entering your booth only after meticulously scrutinizing you on the Web. Post exhibit information on your site and through your social media channels—Gen Y’ers will be looking for an experience geared to them, so make sure your booth does not disappoint. Perhaps invite them to an augmented reality experience or a climbing wall coupled with a reward for participating—techy gadgets like an iPhone® 5 Adaptor or Emergency Power Bank make nice giveaways for this targeted group. It is also important to note that Gen Y’ers prefer to share and connect through digital means more than most generations. So instead of handing out printed brochures and business cards, try digital literature. Imprint a URL or QR code on a Mini Eco Paper Pen or save it to a USB—your literature then doubles as your giveaway.

Effectively reaching Gen X and Gen Y means your organization has the attention of more than half of the labor force. An approach tailored to the preferences and desires of each audience is sure to help.

Barney, Lee. “CEIR: Don’t Overlook Gen X & Y at Tradeshows.”  ExpoWeb.com. N.p., 03 May 2012. Web. Retrieved 13 Mar. 2014.

“Generations in the Workplace in the United States and Canada.” Catalyst. N.p., 01 May 2012. Web. Retrieved 12 Mar. 2014.

“What Do Gen X and Gen Y Want From Our Shows?” YouTube. YouTube, 25 Nov. 2013. Web. Retrieved 13 Mar. 2014.

Woolard, Charlotte. “Event marketers see new opportunities in Gen Y.” Advertising Age BtoB RSS. N.p., 11 June 2012. Web. Retrieved 13 Mar. 2014.

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