Special report from Lisa Kraus.
The second session I attended at the Green Meeting Industry Council’s Sustainable Meetings Conference on day two was all about the benefits of virtual meetings. As someone who champions live events (especially PYM LIVE Events), it is difficult for me to accept why a company would choose a virtual meeting. However, after Lynn Randall’s case study explanation of Cisco’s recent successful virtual meeting, I was sold. Large corporations who need to bring together meeting delegates from all over the world will not only save hotel and meal costs, but a significant reduction of hours in travel time, which positively affects the environment by reducing the carbon footprint caused by airplane and automobile pollutants. I still believe nothing replaces the experience of a face-to-face meeting, but virtual meetings do offer a sustainable alternative when they can be incorporated.
After a delicious lunch, Paul Salinger (@psalinger) led an in-depth discussion on using digital and social media for event marketing and communications. He offered great tips, such as asking meeting attendees to submit post-event surveys virtually, which not only saves paper, but also generates a better response ratio. A new event handheld device from Spotme was also introduced. This portable product provides delegates with everything they need during a meeting, is intended to accelerate networking, and is completely paperless. Some features include the ability to exchange virtual business cards, keep a current attendee list, view the full conference agenda, access maps of the facility, keep an e-conference binder and allow attendees to instant message each other.
One recommendation Paul made was that planners ask for delegates to create online profiles when registering, including their Twitter and Facebook names. Some participants expressed concern over privacy issues. Paul suggested that companies develop social media guidelines and policies to set an expectation of professional standards. I reminded everyone that if they are posting things on the Internet, it is no longer private. This is good advice our friend David Nour (@davidnour) has iterated to PYM LIVE Event attendees multiple times: “If you don’t want it found, don’t post it online.”
At the conclusion of this session, I took a few minutes to visit with some exhibitors, and see what goodies were being distributed at their tables. It was great to see so many conscientious vendors, who were careful not to bring too much, and limited their amount of printed products they were distributing. My favorite items were at Keystone Resort’s table. They had biodegradable plant markers with marigold seeds embedded in them. Keystone also had nice iPhone and computer screen cleaning cloths, which came in handy for me because I was tweeting so much from my phone. I also enjoyed visiting with the exhibitors from Aspen, who had pens that were made from 100% recycled materials. I was also thrilled to reconnect with my friend from last year’s conference, who was exhibiting for Visit Denmark. Not only did I see plenty of current friends, I made many new friends too. Richard Ko was present to not only attempt to stump the sustainable educators with his brilliant questions (he kept everyone on their toes), but to also introduce a new meetings initiative in development for Taipei, Taiwan.
The final session of the day provided details on how to track, benchmark and define strategies for measuring waste reduction in meetings and events. This can be a confusing subject, but presenter Eric Ricaurte summed it up by reminding us “If you can’t manage it, you can’t measure it.” He recommended implementing a company policy and process of instituting a green committee, developing and outlining green policies with vendors, providing ongoing staff training, and utilizing standards with observations tracking and reporting.