Research update: Hulya Ceren Anil’s work on Generation Y and conferences

Early in summer 2011 the DREaM project team was approached by Hulya Ceren Anil, a Masters student at the University of Surrey. Hulya asked if it would be possible for her to use the DREaM project launch conference as a site for data collection for her Masters dissertation. We were pleased both to welcome her on the day, and to hear recently that she achieved a distinction for her project, as well as her degree overall. Hulya has sent us an update on her study, the details of which are outlined below.


An introduction to Hulya's work from the opening session at the DREaM launch conference

The aim of Hulya’s research was to explore the need for interactivity in the content design of meetings and conferences. She was interested in the Generation Y perspective, and to compare this to the needs of the previous generations. She wanted to find out what kind of advanced interactive technologies may be needed in conferences and meetings in order to motivate and attract the Generation Y audience. She suspected that members of this group are less responsive to basic PowerPoint presentations. Thus she hoped to find out whether there was potential at conferences for advanced audiovisual technology such as virtual reality, 3D, hologram projections etc.

The DREaM launch conference was an ideal site for data collection because of the delegate demographic in terms of age, and because the delegates were from a profession that has a tradition of conference participation. Apart from these main factors, the length and the date of the conference were ideally suited to the timing of Hulya’s research, and the venue was within easy reach for her to attend in person.

Hulya was grateful for a very warm welcome from the organisers when she arrived at the British Library mid-afternoon on July 19th. The audience had been notified of her research in the conference opening session in the morning and the delegates shown her picture.

Participation in the research was optional. When Hulya arrived she placed her questionnaires and envelopes near the exit of the auditorium so anyone interested could pick up a copy at the end of the conference. During closing remarks the audience was reminded about the questionnaire.

After the conference Hulya also appreciated help with distributing her questionnaires to a wider audience. She followed advice from the DREaM launch conference organising committee members on how to achieve this. This help was invaluable in generating further interest in the study, and in securing a high response rate to the survey.

The research findings highlight that visuals should be used extensively in meetings and conferences in order to aid the learning process of Generation Y delegates, and to keep them focused. To do this, an appropriate combination of these should be used along with other forms of data presentation such as audio, motion pictures (videos), and texts. The main reason for the necessity of high visual content is that Generation Y has been exposed to images and visual learning since early childhood. This generation is used to playing video games and surfing the Internet.

Hulya also found that Generation Y prefers a high level of interactivity (both technological and personal) and prefers that the entertainment element at meetings and conferences is also emphasised. In addition, serious games as well as interactive learning tools such as touch screen tables with a high level of graphics can be utilised for this purpose. Specialised software tailored specifically according to a meeting’s needs will encourage collaboration: Generation Y generally prefers to collaborate and co-operate. If the right design is employed, this can help bring out Generation Y’s true potential as effective collaborators and motivate the achievement of objectives of the conferences and meetings as educational events. At the same time networking and motivation elements are satisfied.

On the basis of her results Hulya advises conference organisers to understand Generation Y well and tailor their conferences and meetings accordingly. The findings have shown that there is no need for extreme changes. However, left to time, a gap will grow between the generations if attention isn’t paid to this issue now. Hulya’s research, and that of others, has shown that Generation Y is a very productive cohort, provided that it is approached the right way and given the right conditions.

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