Post authored by Donna Kastner, Founder of Retirepreneur
Have you noticed a demographic shift happening at professional conferences? You might not think the over-50 crowd still matters for events anymore.
Oh… but they do.
Quite a few event marketers are investing heavily to win over Millennials and Gen Z – and it makes sense.
These early career professionals are our future. The sooner we can demonstrate to them how events can be a remarkable catalyst for career growth and professional development, the better.
Alas, as is the case with many strategy shifts, the pendulum might have swung a bit too far.
What about the “seasoned” professionals?
Have we forgotten the 50- and 60-somethings who have amassed three decades or more of knowledge, wisdom and experience in their fields?
At many conferences, this vintage crowd is largely ignored.
Keep in mind, many in this over-50 crowd have discretion and funding to attend any conference they wish, but they’re not feeling the love these days at many events.
Longevity + Wellness Ushers in an Exciting New Life Stage
In 1900, the average life expectancy in the United States was 47. A century later, it was 75. That’s nearly three more decades on the life span clock.
But wait! The longevity plot thickens…
In 1935, when the Social Security program was launched, average life expectancy was 61 years.
With age 65 established as the point for most to reap benefits, that meant fewer than half of the early beneficiaries would ever see a dime.
Fast forward to today, life expectancy is now advancing well into the mid-eighties.
People are also more mindful of wellness. Nutrition and exercise are top priorities for many.
That, coupled with a myriad of healthcare advances, means this next life stage could span three decades or more.
Does stopping at age 65 (aka, full retirement) still make sense anymore?
For many, the answer is a resounding NO, but the path to “What’s Next?” is still fuzzy.
This creates a golden opportunity for event organizers to seize.
Striking a Perfect Mix of Work & Leisure for this Next Life Stage
Think about your stalwart attendees who come to your annual conference nearly every year.
I’m going to bet that many proud members of this over-50 crowd and most are pondering what’s next for their career.
They’re not necessarily interested in running full-throttle in their current job well into their 70s, but a more graceful work downshift sure sounds appealing.
Now, imagine if you hosted a pre-conference workshop for this crowd where they could…
- Expand their network, as they connect with like-minded professionals pursuing similar goals.
- Learn where talent gaps are most profound for your industry. The war for talent is intensifying, teeing up more opportunities for consultants and contractors.
- Explore steps they might take now, while they’re still employed, to prepare for a smooth segue from full-time job to part-time consulting gig.
- Help them work through a few calculations to better understand how a leap from job to gig might boost their retirement savings.
- Identify sessions at your conference they might attend together, after this workshop.
Some are striving to work beyond age 65 because they so enjoy what they do. For others, money is the motivating factor.
Did you know that less than 25 percent of today’s workers have a pension?
Now consider this: a whopping 81 percent of today’s retirees receive income from a pension plan.
For 42 percent of these lucky pension holders, this income makes up half or more of their total retirement income.
With pensions diminishing, the ability to earn maybe $20-30K through a part-time consulting gig would make a world of difference and could even fund a few travel adventures.
If you can help these folks master the leap from job to gig, your event (and your association) will become the networking and learning hub driving future prosperity.
But Wait – What About the Millennials?
Don’t worry, we’re not ignoring this major audience.
However, if you can attract the more forward-leaning Boomers to your events—the ones who are unafraid of exploring uncharted waters, but also comfortable asking younger colleagues for help—everybody wins.
Each generation is looking at the workplace through a different lens.
Each generation brings valuable insights to the table, shaped by different life experiences, but there’s a lot more that unites us than divides us.
Inter-generational collaboration is something we need to foster at conferences and trade shows, because when you unleash that kind of diversity of perspectives in a brainstorming session, that’s when the breakthrough ideas are found.
In his book, Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder, Chip Conley explores a very different and more vibrant mutual-mentorship model, where elders often help their younger colleagues master EQ (emotional Intelligence), while youngers help the elders master DQ (digital intelligence).
To borrow another concept from Conley’s book, the over-50 crowd segment might have “Know How,” but it’s their “Know Who” that Millennials crave more.
Imagine the introductions your Modern Elder attendees might make to contacts in a network that’s been carefully culled for decades.
PS: I haven’t mentioned Gen X, but keep a close eye on this segment.
The older Gen X’ers are now crossing into the over-50 crowd.
More importantly, their appetite for entrepreneurialism is growing.