The green meetings scene has gone mainstream, with more successes to come.
Technology is rapidly changing the world of meetings and events. From conference apps and electronic signage to virtual meetings. Remember when you were told to turn off your cell phone when you entered a session room? Now, not only are you allowed to leave it on, but you are given a conference hashtag to tweet, telling the outside world about the valuable event you are attending.
Sustainability has also benefited from technology. In fact, sustainability and technology are inseparable and always have been. Early adopters of sustainable meetings were technology conferences because they had the right demographic (young, eco-conscious professionals) for one, but mostly because they love to find solutions using technology. Many of the sustainable practices we take for granted are thanks to technological advances; e-mail, file sharing, online registration and apps, for example.
If you are looking at the paper savings alone, gone are the days of faxing or mailing in a registration form and receiving a confirmation letter. Think of the huge binders sent out to each exhibitor to make plans to have a booth in an exhibit hall—all online. Even those stacks of banquet event orders are now available electronically. Driven by technology? Certainly. More sustainable than reams of paper? Absolutely!
The conference app has gone mainstream in the past year and for good reason. With the rapid increase in the number of smart phone users, conference organizers can now make their information available to attendees 24 hours a day. Apps have the conference program, venue maps, speaker information, attendee information and even abstracts of presentations. It wasn’t too long ago when scientific and academic conferences handed out huge volumes of published papers without even considering how many would be discarded. Another perfect example of the connection between sustainability and technology.
The radical transparency of today’s technology is a key reason to pay careful attention to your green meeting practices. Savvy attendees can instantly send photos of polystyrene cups, waste-strewn show floors and plastic water bottles. Risk management of your corporate image could easily be at stake. Being a good corporate citizen at events was never more essential than it is today.
Why not use this technology to tell your sustainable meeting story instead? Develop a game for your conference app designed around catching people doing something right. A little friendly competition goes a long way when attendees are awarded points for things like bringing their own coffee mug, using a reusable water bottle, taking public transportation, bringing one less pair of shoes or walking to dinner. A leaderboard tally keeps things exciting. Here is a case study of an award-winning “Get Your Green On” game that will spark some ideas for your own green design.
Virtual and hybrid meetings that use advanced technology are also sustainable and have many low-carbon benefits. Whether it be the speaker or participants who don’t need to travel to attend, conference organizers and attendees are saving time, money and the environment. As the technology continues to evolve, these types of meetings will significantly reduce the impact of the meeting industry while still allowing people to connect and learn.
So standing here at the corner of Sustainability and Technology, I see a rosy future for the event world. How fortunate we are to be designing and producing events during this place in history. We have the opportunity to use so many creative, innovative ideas to bring our vision to our communities while using the Earth’s resources responsibly.