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Meetings and Conferences

Meetings and Conferences

Being Meeting Green Tip #2 – Carbon Offsets

This is our second posting in our series regarding green meeting tips.  For many of us understanding the concept of carbon offsets seems to be a challenge.  Essentially when we produce a meeting, conference or event the means used to transport the participants, (i.e. airplanes, cars and buses) emit carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Because participants have to travel some distance to the conference, there is currently no way to avoid the carbon emissions.  However, to offset their impact on the environment carbon emission offset programs have been developed.    There are a number of programs that calculate the emissions from transportation and conference energy use and quantify the monetary offset.  A couple of excellent resources are http://denver.org/denver-meetings-conventions/green-meetings/co2-calculator and http://www.sustainabletravelinternational.org/documents/op_carbonoffsets.html.

The offset program typically involves investing in projects such as tree planting, or renewable and energy-efficient projects (i.e. solar panels and wind farms).  There are some funding options as well.  One option is ask the participants to voluntarily offset their own travel by contributing a specific amount based upon the calculated emissions.  A second option is to use the offset program as a sponsorship opportunity, whereby the sponsor would receive featured promotions for their contribution.

Obviously we want to minimize carbon emissions through careful transportation planning and management.  However, while there are steps to do so, carbon emissions can not be eliminated and offset programs are an effective way reduce the environmental impact of meetings, conferences and events.


Saving Conference Dollars With Sustainability

Diana, our CEO, renewed her commitment to the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) the other day which prompted some thought and discussion about whether we (EDI) are doing enough to support sustainability in the event industry.  The answer was NO!  So we had a green meeting brainstorming session and wow!  We actually discussed a lot of great ideas.  Most of the ideas are recycled (no pun intended), meaning we have observed, read or heard about these tips from other meeting professionals, but they were new ideas for many of us.  Some of the tips we have heard before, such as offering pitchers of water instead of bottled water.  While these tips have been around for a while, they are still effective in reducing the negative environmental impact, and believe it or not, they are still not being implemented at some conferences and meetings.  So we thought we would share all of our green meeting tips we discussed with you.  You can become more greener with us, not only from a sustainability standpoint but from the conference dollars you will save from adopting these tips.  The is one problem; we can not do it in one blog posting.  We could, but that would be breaking a bunch of blogging rules and heaven only knows we have broken plenty already!  So we decided to cover one or two tips each week in a new blog called “Being Meeting Green”, hopefully it will be sustaining! LOL!

Being Meeting Green Tip #1 – QR Codes                                                                                                                                       

The meeting industry has made great strides over the past few years in reducing the amount of paperused at conferences, meetings and events.  By utilizing online conference registration thousands of dollars of cost savings in paper, printing,mailings and postage have been realized.  Another electronic solution for eliminating other printed materials such as on-site handouts is QR codes.

If you are not familiar with QR Codes, they are similar to bar codes, which are used to track inventory and capture pricing information at the point of sale.  You scan a QR code with the camera in your Smartphone.  You can link to digital content on the web, activate a number of phone functions including email, IM and SMS, and/or connect to a web browser. There’s really no limit to how, or even how much, you can share with QR codes.  For those attendees that do not have a smart phone, utilization of text codes that can be punched into your mobile phone will also facilitate the availability of information for attendee review.

The QR codes are displayed in highly visible areas like convention hall entrances, information counters and on vendor booths in exhibition halls.  There is no cost to create the QR codes, which can created by a third party online vendor.  Of course the digital content that the QR code links to has to be created, no different than the effort required for printed content.  However, with digital content you have more flexibility in the content you present.  Your digital content may be a landing page, video and even an entire eBook.

The benefits of using QR codes to disseminate information are significant to minimizing the environmental impact of conferences, meetings and events and can represent a significant cost savings in paper and printing.


Have You Unconferenced Today?

Inc Magazine, December 1, 2009 – “On a crisp October morning, more than 400 people have crowded into the café of a conference center in Burlington, Massachusetts. They are here for Innovation 2009, an unconference for tech start-ups sponsored by the Mass Technology Leadership Council. There are no programs: No one knows what the sessions will be about or who will speak. But the topics are guaranteed to be relevant to the attendees, because they are about to come up with those subjects on the spot.”                                                                                           Unconference, Open Space

Looking for ways to engage conference and meeting participants?  The unconference may be your answer.  In an unconference, participants create and manage their own agenda of sessions around a theme or purpose.  While the format has been around since the 80’s, it has enjoyed recent popularity as digital resources have made organizing unconferences easier and as Mitch Joel states in his book, Six Pixels of Separation,  “Something happened in Silicon Valley where people went so far in the direction of technology, they wanted to bring back more of a ’60s communal aspect, with people getting together in the spirit of democracy, instead of conferences organized from the top down, where everything is mapped out and marketed.”

Attendees present their ideas for sessions to the participants at the opening of the unconference and then post their topics on a large centrally located wall.  Location and session times are plotted on the wall.  If no one shows up for a session it doesn’t happen.  If too many participants show up an additional session is added.  As the day progresses new sessions may be posted as new participant ideas may be spawned from previous sessions.

In an effort to sustain energy and spontaneity an unconference is guided by “the law of two feet”; If you are not learning or contributing, it is your responsibility to find someplace where you are.

In addition to the unconference being more engaging and receptive to networking than traditional conferences, unconferences can be as little as one tenth of the cost because you do not have speaker costs and typically food costs drop because coffee breaks and meals are less elaborate.  The unconference can also serve as a incubator of innovative new ideas.  While the unconference can present its logistical challenges, the end of conference evaluation most likely will provide some very pleasing results.


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