Events in the digital age: keep them focused and sustainable

Jun 07 - hannah

Video conferencing, virtual meetings and collaboration have been hailed as a great step forwards for sustainability, consigning meetings and meeting travel to the past in one fell swoop and reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption across the board.

For businesses conscious of their environmental impact, it’s easy to get swept away by these claims: and it’s true that these digital technologies do have a really important part to play in communicating both internally and externally. However, face-to-face meetings, events and exhibitions are still hard to beat for achieving certain aims, which is why a recent American Express report found that numbers of meetings are predicted to increase in the coming year.

Connecting with hard to reach audiences

It’s often easy to assume that every professional spends their life in front of a screen or in a meeting room, where video conferencing is a piece of cake. But many professionals – doctors or vets for example – have days filled with patient appointments and little time to sit in front of a screen, while farmers spend significant amounts of time on the move, outside, and in rural areas. For these audiences, events such as roadshows or meetings that get them out of the surgery or off the farm for a short period of time will be a far more effective tool. Kantar Media, for example, found that 87% of the doctors they surveyed in September 2015 had attended one event or more in the past year, and spent an average of an hour at exhibit stands (Kantar Media’s Sources and Interactions Study, September 2015)

Educating and informing; Building relationships

Digital interactions are great for getting things done among people who already know each other, or where the subject under discussion is widely understood. But research from the Maritz Institute found that face to face interactions are still the best way to introduce audiences to something new or different; to promote collaboration and innovation; and to build strong human relationships.

Keeping your impact to a minimum

The good news is that the events and exhibitions industry is acutely aware of its responsibilities, and is becoming more and more sustainable in its business practices. There are a number of environmental standards that apply specifically to the events industry, so look for suppliers that hold the ISO 20121 sustainable events certification, as well as the more general ISO 14001 for environmental practices. These standards require organisations to minimise their negative impacts on the environment, communities and local economy, and cut costs through better energy and waste management.

As holders of these standards, we have spent significant time working out how to keep our customers’ events as sustainable as possible, and have narrowed it down to the following key aspects:

  • Meeting content – Ensure that the meeting or event is focused and its objectives are clearly defined, so that no time or resources are wasted through woolly agendas
  • Exhibition stands and displays – we design custom modular kits in-house or use off the shelf solutions specific to our clients’ requirements. These can be re-assembled in many different formats and re-used over and over again with either reusable or new graphics; this significantly reduces waste and costs
  • Paper and printing – this is one of the key areas of consumption at an event, and we make full use of digital technology where possible to reduce the amount of paper used, as well as ensuring that all our printers meet environmental standards for processes and inks. We also ensure that there are sufficient facilities for recycling waste at the event, making it easy for attendees to be green.
  • Venues and energy management – Venues are increasingly meeting and exceeding environmental standards, and we always aim to use a LEED venue (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) where possible, as they are committed to purchasing green energy, using local resources and maximising natural light.
  • Travel – Booking delegate and faculty hotels close to venues as possible minimises the travel required once at the event, and liaising with local authorities to promote public transport through free passes is often very effective in reducing car travel.
  • Food – Smaller plates and avoiding over-catering, using locally sourced ingredients and local companies, and steering clear of disposable items such as plastic cutlery and paper tablecloths can make a big difference to the amount of food-related waste your event creates. Some organisations even use linguine as coffee stirrers.

With meticulous planning, careful management and experience, we’ve found we can ensure that when you need to run an event or exhibition, you can achieve your objectives without running up your environmental costs.