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ECU research outlines best practices for engaging millennial generation

Aug. 9, 2012

By Melanie Jock
ECU News Services

Casual interactions spiced up with technology and brief entertainment are the best methods for engaging the millennial generation, an East Carolina University researcher said.

ECU hospitality management professor George Fenich has completed a study of the up-and-coming generation of millennials – a classification of tech-savvy individuals born between 1980 and 1999. With co-authors Sheila Scott-Halsell of Oklahoma State University and Godwin-Charles Ogbeide of the University of Arkansas, Fenich studied the communication preferences, traits, accepted practices and norms of more than 2,000 study participants aged 18 to 30.

The most surprising finding was that 80 percent of millennials prefer face-to-face communication, Fenich said. “In the meetings and events industry, the idea comes up regularly that face-to-face meetings are obsolete, with ‘such and such’ technology taking its place,” he said.

Fenich said another significant finding was a self-reported high level of respect for authority. When asked if they respect authority, 74 percent of respondents answered "very much". The question about authority tied with another question (including entertainment in education) for the highest overall rating in the survey, 4.65 out of 5.

The study found that millennials are impatient and prefer shorter meetings with integration of computer technology. Millennials value engaging, structured meetings in casual, intimate meeting environments, with some form of entertainment to add value to the meeting.

Meeting planners aiming to engage the millennial generation should “discontinue programs of straight lecture or basic PowerPoint presentations,” the research team said in a press release. “If you motivate the millennial with an inspiring and fun event, they will come,” the researchers said.

The Education Foundation of the Professional Convention Management Association funded the research. ECU’s Center for Survey Research helped Fenich’s team create the survey.

Fenich said he believes this is the largest study to date on millennials and their communication preferences.

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