For those of you who were unable to attend this year’s Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) Sustainable Meetings Conference in Portland, Ore., you really missed a fantastic event. This year’s conference, themed “Game On!”, brought record-high attendance numbers, including over 250 delegates, and for the first time, the conference was available virtually, which attracted over 60 cyberspace attendees.
How was this event different than the ones in years past? In addition to the high-caliber education that the conference delivered on how to plan more sustainable events, there was literally a conference game for attendees to play in teams. The hands-on experience really brought the group to the next level with content engagement and team-building techniques for learning and applying the skills we had learned in the sessions.
I know you’re wondering how it all worked. The conference organizers partnered with QuickMobile, who supplied each group with one iPad and designed a Web-based mobile application so that each delegate could access everything about the four-day conference (show program, schedule, speaker bios, case study overview, team members, real time points standings, etc.) via their smart phones. The teams were randomly selected and announced before the conference began. Each team consisted of 15 members, and the teams were named after different kinds of trees. I was on Team Willow, which I proudly boasted with a ribbon affixed to my conference name badge.
Each team received points for completing their case study project, attending conference activities, and sharing information about the conference via social media channels. Check out the Twitter feed #gmic (I was listed as a “Top-8” conference Tweeter). Time for team sessions were built into the already jam-packed schedule, in intervals of 20 to 30 minutes.
The case studies each group received involved a fictitious company that “hired” us to plan their sustainable event. Factors that had to be considered included destination selection (based on convenience for the fictitious delegates and the city’s real-life sustainable offers such as public transportation and convention center recycling programs), incorporating sustainable practices throughout the event and client’s business objectives and preferences. Team Willow had to plan “Triple P Expo: Plethora of Promotional Products” for “Tchotchke International.”
The “Tchotchke International” mission statement was “making brands matter.” We were given some background on the company, which included “increased scrutiny for the past two years for the perception that promotional products employ child labor sweatshops in Asia, the down market in promotional products purchasing due to the economic climate, and a 10 percent decrease in the past two years’ events, which included a threat for more buyers to withdraw from this year’s show.”
As our team discussed in great detail all of the factors to be considered, and examined the possibilities and methods for creating a sustainable event for our client, one person from our team documented the notes and conclusions on our iPad. Some ideas we decided upon were to hold the event in Denver, Colo., limit the amount of collateral that could be distributed to the attendees, require that brochures and catalogues be placed on memory sticks (which dramatically cut back on paper at the event), and provide increased benefits to exhibitors who would distribute items made from recycled products. Additionally, we decided to educate both exhibitors and attendees before and during the event about the sustainability practices Tchotchke International employed, as well as information on what the true working conditions were at the Asian manufacturing plants.
By the end of the conference, points were tallied and each team’s work on the case studies was examined by the GMIC board, who served as the judges for our conference game. Third place went to Team Oak, Team Willow received second place (I was so ecstatic!), and first place went to Team Magnolia.
For more information about the game design, please see this article by Jenise Fryatt, community manager for Engage 365. Samuel J. Smith wrote this excellent column about his experience playing the game as a virtual attendee. Also check out what our Sustainability columnist Johanna Walsh, CMP took away from the event in her March column.
I plan to share more educational tips and inspiration I gained from the 2011 GMIC Sustainable Meeting Conference, so stay tuned.
Editor’s note: Plan Your Meetings has been a media sponsor of the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference since 2009.