When the Millennial generation, or Gen Y, born between 1981 and 1996, entered the United States workforce, the country experienced some of the biggest economic shifts in its history. The changing market environment created sharp socio-economic divides between groups with, and groups without, college degrees. Meanwhile, student loan debt began to grow while salaries remained stagnant and for some, even regressed relative to the rising cost of living. As a result, many Millennials found themselves unable to achieve the same life milestones that their grandparents, parents, and elder siblings attained in earlier generations.
Today, many of these millennials are now in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s. Adults in this generation are still seeking out more stable footing in their lives and careers, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that eroded the economic gains made, since the Great Recession of 2008.
What will be the role of Millennials in the time period that leading analysts have labeled the Fourth Industrial Revolution, especially with regards to their future leadership and professional contribution to society? What roles will be available for Millennials and the generations that follow, given the rise of AI, Blockchain, and other emergent technologies?
Millennial Summit, a conference developed by the Spur Impact Association, is on a mission to explore these questions for Americans—and to increase access to meaningful networking, professional development, and career advancement opportunities for a demographic cohort that needs support to make up for lost ground.
“It started a little more than four or five years ago,” says Charles Vincent, Executive Director at Spur Impact Association. “Our goal was to create the equivalent of a Forbes conference, with the goal of unifying professional groups in the State of Delaware. We formed a committee of 30-40 different organizations committed to this idea. We put the conference together with the goal of helping young professionals meet and connect with one another to identify work opportunities.”
More than 250 people attended the event from Delaware and regionally in its first year. Over the years, the attendee base grew, along with their impact on the personal lives and careers of Millennials. Then, came 2020.
Attendees of the conference tend to be at the beginning of their career journeys, which means that these professionals are just finding their footing. Millennial Summit aims to equip its attendees with the skills they need to make big moves in their lives—similar to the journey that Pautler has taken to co-found her own company.
“We always have a panel on diversity and inclusion, which is always one of our most highly reviewed sessions,” she explains. “Our sessions on professional development have also been meaningful. This is the first year  that we’ve had a panel on public speaking, and we also have panels on virtual networking.”
Another focus area, elaborates Vincent, is to pair younger professionals with more senior hiring managers, to help create a culture of mentorship. These leaders, from sponsor organizations, attend the conference with an interest in tapping into today’s younger talent pool. These established professionals come from industries ranging from healthcare to tech and manufacturing.
With the virtual event, one of Vincent and Pautler’s goals is to encourage the same human connections that take place in real-life situations. “The event is typically in the first week of August, and the national shutdown for COVID-19 happened in early March,” says Pautler. “We still launched with our early bird announcement on April 1. We spent four months thinking through how to adapt the conferences to a virtual platform.”
One outcome of Millennial Summit’s first visual event was a nearly 200% expansion of their attendee base. People tuned in from around the country and world — including those who could not attend previously due to cost or logistical travel constraints, that were now able to join the event.
“We had 30 states in America represented, including people tuning in from the United Kingdom and Greece,” says Pautler. “The virtual format opened doors for us, from a geographic perspective. We had one attendee from Minnesota who found our platform on Instagram.
Behind the scenes, Vincent and his team were able to bring this vision to life with a small team. Currently, there are only two employees who work for Spur Impact Association. Everyone else on the conference organizing team is a volunteer. Attendify’s intuitive user interface, administration tools, and fully integrated web and native mobile platform made it possible for the team to navigate potential constraints with greater ease and confidence.
For instance, a tornado hit Delaware on the day of the conference, which resulted in a power outage for several attendees and speakers.
“The speakers made it happen anyhow,” says Pautler. “[Using Attendify’s native mobile app,] they went to their cars or to the basement to wait out the storm.”
With its first successful virtual event, Millennial Summit is considering using Attendify to host more conferences with greater frequency, to reach attendees for whom the August date might not be the best fit — and in an effort to bring people together throughout the year.