7 Takeaways from “Oldchella”


Last weekend (Oct. 7-9), promoters presented Desert Trip in Indio, Calif., a rock ‘n roll extravaganza specifically targeting Baby Boomers with heavyweight acts famous since the ‘60s on the order of the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters and The Who. The strategy worked. Concertgoers paid top dollar (reportedly $1,600 for pit tickets) and turned out in droves.

The same promoters each year present Coachella (geared to a much younger demographic), causing Mick Jagger to dub Desert Trip “Oldchella.” Given the more mature crowd, the promoters provided padded seating and more upscale-than-usual concert food. The concert repeats this weekend (Oct. 14-16).

Desert Trip’s success is a good reminder for planners that they need to pay attention to the quickly aging Boomers among their attendees. Nothing obvious or too “in your face.” But considering all the coverage in the media of the emerging Millennial generation, it’s helpful to keep in mind that that the tastes and preferences of 30-somethings and 60-somethings tend to differ. Plus there’s a good chance that the c-suite executives among your attendees lean more towards Boomer than Millennial.

Consider these seven takeaways from Desert Trip for your “Oldchella” groups:

  • Heavy hors d’oeuvre receptions are great, especially on the first night of an event, but attendees may have been traveling hours to reach the destination. So the more senior among them will appreciate you providing enough tables and chairs around the periphery for them to sit for a spell.
  • Similarly, appletinis, other specialty cocktails and craft beers are fine, but it’s a good idea to make sure the bar is also stocked with—and the mixologists (i.e. bartenders) are still prepared to serve with a smile, not a smirk—scotch and soda, gin and tonic and the like.
  • Given scheduling pressures in putting together the business session agenda, breakout sessions need to start promptly once the general session concludes. But at many properties (resorts in particular) Breakout Room G will be a good 15-minute walk away. Leave adequate time for all your attendees (regardless of age) to find it.
  • Bathroom breaks aren’t just a chance to check for messages on your iPhone. Take a page out of the Desert Trip handbook, and make sure they are adequately stocked, maybe even upgraded with extra amenities.
  • Too many Power Point presentations include slides filled with so many bullets and data points that the best sighted 30-something in the room will have to strain to read them. Keep ’em light on text.
  • Everyone likes the idea of breakfast, but when the banquet the previous night doesn’t end until late and the breakfast cuts off at 7:45 so everyone can make it to the meeting room by 8:00 (that crowded business agenda again), your Boomers will appreciate a meeting start time of 8:30. Or, hey, even an indulgent 9 AM.
  • Back to breakfast, at many mega-resorts or convention centers, the venue is so sprawling that the exhibition area where breakfast is served can be a very healthy 20-minute or longer walk from the guest room tower. Consider offering at least a continental breakfast service a bit closer in. After all, if your seniors wanted an aerobic start of the day, they’d hit the fitness center.

Photo credits: Shutterstock.com


Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen is a veteran travel writer, based in New Jersey, who has written extensively on meetings management and hotel operations. Most recently, he was executive editor at Hotel Business.

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