Simon Morton, CEO of Eyeful Presentations, offers his tips on engaging with your younger employees
So much has been written about millennials that they’ve almost become these mythical creatures who confound the baby boomers and gen-Xers who run most companies today. As the hype increases, business leaders continue to worry about the best ways to communicate with generation Y.
I empathise: my own business is full of millennials and many of my clients are awash with them too. Like many leaders in my age group, I’m sometimes bemused by the way that millennials respond to certain situations – and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes when trying to engage with them. These are the key lessons I have learnt.
1. Yes, they ARE different
Face facts: millennials do communicate differently. They shy away from traditional formal business report-writing, instead preferring more immediate methods – from presentations and infographics to texts and social media posts. As a result, they’re communicating more regularly (and, arguably, more effectively) than their elders.
2. Put the audience first
For reasons of habit or ignorance, a lot of corporate presentations begin with a series of self-aggrandising slides that extol the virtues of the business in question. It’s the presentation equivalent of saying: “Enough about you; let’s talk about me.” This is a guaranteed turn-off for millennials – and for the rest of us, come to think of it.
3. Do your homework
Sadly, many presenters still fail to prepare adequately. Ego, time pressure and a carefully honed ability to bluff their way through most situations means that too many simply wing it. This won’t wash with millennials. They have a nose for bluffers and will respond in one of two ways. They will either switch off, which negates the point of presenting to them, or vent their frustration and cynicism online. A scathing internal email is bad, but a tweet is potentially disastrous. Reinforce your message with interesting facts to aid engagement and allow it to be shared in pithy social media bites.
4. Keep it short and sweet
There is nothing in the business handbook stating that a presentation should last an hour. Millennials understand and respect the value of brevity better than anyone.
5. Be visual
Gen Y’s penchant for short-form communication doesn’t mean bullet points. More than ever, images are playing a key role in how information is communicated and retained. The success of Instagram is a case in point. Visual content is sticky content – if you have data, visualise it. The same applies to your key messages and calls to action.
6. Be challenging
Millennials like to see the status quo being challenged, so kicking off your presentation with a provocative insight will ensure not only an alert audience but also one that’s more willing to engage in a discussion.
7. Be authentic
Passion is equally engaging. Showing real belief in your message will resonate more than well-rehearsed patter and a super-slick set of slides.
8. View it as a great opportunity
Instead of trying to bend millennials to the old way of presentation (how was that working out for you anyway?), leaders should treat this new audience as a chance to rethink their presentation culture.
Simon Morton is a member of IoD West Midlands.