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Younger Audiences May Actually Favour Online Event Interaction

While we are all feeling the loss of physical events, some groups will be better equipped to handle the loss than others. In fact for one particular subset, this year’s switch to online events has granted them a more familiar field of operation.

Many of the people attending trade shows today are digital natives. Young enough never to have lived without the internet, old enough to bring their company wallets, and more to the point; au fait with making and maintaining relationships online.

They are not simply able to cope with online events, they may actually prefer them; more at ease communicating online than in person. Common Sense, a children’s and media advocacy organisation, conducted a study in 2018 in which (compared to 2012) less than a third of teenagers said they prefer chatting with friends face-to-face. Of the remotely connected alternatives, one in ten preferred chatting over video, while 16 per cent selected social media.

Now these teenagers are not buying or selling (yet), and the debate will run and run as to how fulfilling online communication is (in comparison with face-to-face), but the indicators are that many of your potential attendees would appreciate the opportunity to meet and greet in the virtual medium; and may even give a better account of themselves.

But we’ll have to work hard to keep them. Focus is the new IQ, as Georgetown University computer scientist Cal Newport wrote back in 2013.

“In the 21st century economy, the fact you have a 180 IQ does you no good if you can’t focus for more than 180 seconds without checking Twitter.”

“This means the millennial generation, while it might have a high intellectual capacity, is leaving most of its mental capacity on the table,” he added.

Video is the most effective way to engage millennials according to numerous studies, but a varied approach is key to hooking this audience. Gamification and festivalisation may seem like luxuries from a bygone era, cast aside as organisers sought a more prudent, utilitarian approach to keeping the show going, but as trends continue and we normalise the new normal, they’ll play a vital role in keeping this younger audience engaged.millennials are engaging with videoFor starters, they reduce the need for people to divert their attention from the open browser window in which your online event is playing out. 

A physical show delivers a somewhat captive audience. If they’ve arrived then they’ve set much of the day aside for it, usually on the company’s dollar. An online event by contrast occupies just one of many tabs on their sticker-adorned laptops.

You need to entertain them to keep them. Invest in the interface, the content you need to supply them with, and an efficient system to combine the two. This new audience installs or uninstalls its apps on the strength of their functionality and the communities they grant them access to.