As the Millennial influence continues to grow, younger learners are redefining education programs, innovation in technology, and content development and consumption. That doesn’t mean a complete departure from what your organization has been doing, but it means a fresher take and possibly a reprioritization on your initiatives.

This conversation must be grounded in data and understanding. It is true, perception is reality, but it’s the perception of how potential learners (specifically Millennials) feel that should be important to organizations.

Who They Are

Also known as Gen Yers, Millennials were generally born between 1980 and 2000. It’s the largest generation yet (with 80 million Millennials in the U.S. and 2.5 billion worldwide) and the most ethnically and racially diverse. Millennials have grown up with technology and are often referred to as digital natives with their dominance of social networks. And, they’re a major force in the workplace: Nearly half of workers are now Millennials; that percentage will grow to about 75 percent by 2030.

Stereotypically speaking, Millennials are confident, have high expectations, and are achievement-oriented. They want to not only make money in their job but also aspire to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.

What They Want

By and large, younger members are interested in job opportunities (34 percent), socializing (30 percent), and certifications (24 percent). But membership organizations are not prioritizing these benefits. In fact, organizations cite conferences (48 percent), networking (45 percent), and advocacy (38 percent) as the top benefits they believe members value. As a matter of fact, advocacy is second from the bottom (8 percent) in reasons new members join.

The top reasons Millennials are making the choice to pursue professional development are to learn a new skill, advance in their careers, or because their employer or company culture either encourages or requires them to pursue professional education.

Why They Join

There’s a slight decrease in in-person courses and a shift toward newer learning formats; things such as short videos and webcasts, on-demand learning courses, and mobile learning opportunities are growing in popularity. As technology changes and separates us, we must re-engineer to create that in-person feeling and offer members every opportunity to connect.

Interactivity and engagement are crucial to captivate your online audience. It’s clearly the preference, especially among young professionals, and yet, it can be a little lonely to sit there on your computer at your office or home versus going to an in-person conference, so you want to make sure you are considering ways to engage members and give them the opportunity to engage with one another to make it a less lonely experience.

Let’s discuss how you can practice listening, help people get together, and add a human touch during your live and online events to gain and retain young professionals. 

Practice Listening

Question and Answer

Allow for audience interaction in real-time and have a session monitor or give speakers access to the Q&A panel. This way, you keep your learners engaged in the present while encouraging participation.


Prepare questions on both demographic feedback and allow attendees to voice an opinion on the information in real-time. By doing this, speakers can tailor their presentation based on poll feedback and responses, who is attending, level of expertise, etc. It also makes the experience more communal and assures attendees they are not alone.


Ask for feedback from the virtual audience just as you do your in-person events, as well as whether they liked the opportunities for engagement and networking. You can get ideas from them that you may be able to incorporate down the road, which is a win-win for you and your audience.

Get Together


Communicate via the chat to allow learning to happen as people are listening. This way, members are able to discuss takeaways or insights in the moment and teach one another through virtual conversation. This adds another layer of learning possibilities.


Offer a virtual happy hour at the end of each day for their virtual conference. Create a casual setting to allow people to connect with low pressure, and members are able to “lurk and learn” which gives them more perceived value.


Consider integrating the community tied into your conference in advance so people can connect with one another before, during, and after your event. Give all your virtual conference attendees a badge in your community so they can recognize one another and make those networking connections. When you integrate your conference community, people can connect with others who are interested in the same topics and growth opportunities.

Add a Personal Touch

Custom Interfaces

Customize the interface to incorporate branding and information related to your organization or a sponsor. This way, you can reinforce your brand or provide added value to sponsors by highlighting them within the interface. Where applicable, curate the viewer layout to meet the needs of various delivery formats. This helps to deliver an enhanced user experience for learners to easily consume education anywhere, anytime.


Break up the presentation with different content, and use content-related videos to enhance a speaker’s presentation or an ad/commercial for the association or sponsor. Video content from figureheads in the industry establishes value and trust, and videos also help members make purchasing decisions.

Breakout Session

Understand the purpose and objective of presenter exercises in advance and leverage the chat to engage with the virtual audience. Seed questions and have them communicate with one another for the group work. Reinforce your brand or provide added value to sponsors by highlighting them within the interface. Deliver an enhanced user experience for learners to easily consume education anywhere, anytime.

Hopefully, this deep dive into Millennial education preferences and out-of-the-box ideas to address them will help you walk away with engagement strategies that will not only meet the needs of Millennials, but also generate revenue for your organization.