Saturday, April 28, 2012

Should You Attend Virtually or Face to Face?

Last week I attended the GMIC 2012 Sustainable Meetings Conference first virtually and then in person. I have talked about those experiences in my past two blog posts. Over the past several days, I have been ruminating over both types of participation and have finally come to some conclusions which might help you decide as well.

Reasons to attend virtually:

  • You are highly interested in the content of the sessions and want to give it your full attention  (much easier without the distraction of other audience members)
  • Work schedule doesn't permit days away from your desk 
  • Economic and environmental savings are high on the priority list 
  • You have the ability to connect with others via social media and don't necessarily have a strong bond with fellow participants 
  • The personal commitments you have require you to stay at home 
  • You may be an introvert and are better served by this forum 

Reasons to attend in person:
  • Sessions are secondary to the networking component 
  • Sales opportunities available in the hallways and during breaks are valuable 
  • More time is available for connection with peers for thought leadership conversations 
  • Economic considerations are not a driving factor 
  • Other face-to-face meetings can be held during the event with fellow participants 
  • Have a strong bond with other participants and are energized by physically spending time together 
  • You may be an extrovert and are better served by this forum 

As a result, I will now have a filter to analyze each opportunity to attend either virtually or in person based on the event itself. Some events will fall into the virtual category for the reasons mentioned. Yet others, like the GMIC conference, are important for me to attend in person--even though I tend to be an introvert.  There is no other event where I return home more energized, more optimistic and more refreshed than when I left.

Just one conversation with the scholarship recipient, Timothy Chen, made all those airline hassles and time constraints disappear from memory.  He is the future of green meetings and will lead the industry toward solutions we haven't even thought of yet.  I was honored to spend time with him.

photo of Nancy Zavada and Timothy Chen

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Participating Live From #GMIC

My last post talked about my experience attending The Sustainable Meetings Conference virtually. Today I am here in Montreal with my like-minded professionals, sitting in the room, I watched on the screen a few days ago. It looks remarkably the same, but now I am at a table filled with sustainability professionals eager to connect and learn more.

Over the past two days, I have had conversations with peers over tea or in the hallways that wouldn't have been possible virtually. I find myself re-energized by their passion and commitment. I have also talked with fellow tweeters that I have only known virtually--we feel like we have known each other for years. It is a hybrid world, indeed!

The buzz here is all about collaboration and communication towards a more sustainable future for our industry. While we may well be competitors in the outside world, this conference is a safe space to talk about issues, challenges and concerns. Tough to do virtually. I will defer my final comments about being a hybrid participant until later this week when I am not so tired, jet-lagged, and otherwise spent.

For now, it has been a fascinating experiment and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Am a Hybrid Participant

When the airlines caused a two-day delay in my trip to Montreal for the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference, I had no choice but to watch the first day virtually. Unhappy as I am, I decided this was a rare opportunity to attend a conference both virtually and in person, a hybrid participant, if you will.

This morning I watched remotely as Paul Salinger inspired both the live and virtual audiences to "be the leaders who are going to transform the industry." His passion came through loud and clear. While I was watching, I was also tweeting, using the conference app, and generally conversing with those at the event. I felt connected.

Our MeetGreen team is also participating virtually and learning what things we can put in place to make our hybrid events a better experience for virtual participants. This morning we quickly realized there was a significant delay, the buffering was an issue, and when the keynote event event was over there was no transition or information on the screen about upcoming events. Not deal breakers, it was just less comfortable as a virtual participant.

Now I am off to the airport and 8+ hours of travel to the conference where I will attend face to face. How will my experience be different? Stay tuned!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ideas For Earth Week or Year

Earth Week (didn't it used to be just a day? and shouldn't it be every day?) is upon us. Our precious planet is once again in the limelight as citizens work to bring environmental consciousness forward.

What am I going to do to "celebrate?" Sadly, I have to fly and burn fossil fuels to attend the GMIC Conference, so my first act is to offset those greenhouse gas omissions by purchasing carbon offsets.

I am hoping this event brings about real change in our industry and I feel travel there is important so I will be using my time, energy and expertise very wisely during the conference. My goal is to share information with those of you unable to attend face to face or virtually (which is an option the rest of the MeetGreen staff will be using) and I will post from the Sustainable Meetings Conference.

Meanwhile, I am taking the opportunity afforded by Earth Week to rethink how both my personal and professional lives impact the Earth. If you would like to join me, here are some ideas to adopt similar to New Years Resolutions for Earth Year:

  • Purchase only recycled paper products for your kitchen and bathroom. You don't need virgin paper for any of these "cleaning issues" and recycled products for home and office are readily available.
  • Use natural cleaning products whenever possible. I have been experimenting with the cleaning properties of vinegar recently and the impact on kitchen stains and bacteria is truly amazing.
  • Eat one vegetarian meal per day, every day.
  • Walk to your errands or consolidate the trips into one. Both my home and office have nearly all of my usual stops within walking distance, so I don't have an excuse besides being lazy.
  • Plant a garden even if it is in a container on your patio. It has an added benefit of helping you understand your food. This may sound kind of crazy, but last week I gave a friend some onions sets to plant in his garden so he would have big, beautiful onions this summer. This sustainable friend said, "Hey, these look like onions." "Yes," I replied, "that is because they are onions, which are bulbs, which is what we cut up and eat when they reach full size." He seemed amazed.

Now it's your turn to come up with your own Earth Year resolutions! Imagine the incredible impact, if we all did just one thing to change our world.

Friday, April 13, 2012

We Interrupt This Broadcast

To bring you this compelling video about why it is in your best interest to attend the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference...

No gimmicks, no lies, no buyer's remorse!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Confessions of an Introvert

Hybrid meetings offer a variety of benefits and not all of them relate to economics or sustainability. Finally, introverts can join an event and still stay in their most productive zone by attending remotely. You see, research suggests, introverts feel their most alive when in quieter, low key environments. In fact, the open spaces and noisy receptions designed into most conferences are designed with the extrovert not the inrtovert in mind.

Funny, I have always felt awkward at networking receptions and decided there was something wrong with me. Why don't I think walking up to a group of people and introducing myself is exciting and fun? It wasn't until I listened to this TED talk by Susan Cain and then started doing my own research, that I began to understand, it is because I am a natural introvert and most events are designed for extroverts.

Another epiphany was during EventCamp Vancouver when I really thought about how much I enjoy attending virtual events, presenting webinars, and contributing to my community through social media all without being face to face. I can engage when I am at my best, in a quieter, low key environment. Apparently, half the population agrees with me.

We introverts don't distract from those attending in person, but add to the collective learning and shouldn't have to apologize for our difference in style. This has been a huge awareness for me. As I move forward in the ever evolving world of meeting management, I commit to building a place for introverts to collaborate, to connect and to assume their important role in the conference world.

If you are not considering how to enroll introverts into your conference program or event your are missing 1/3 to 1/2 of the population. New technology gives you an easy way to do just that. Take the first step and listen to Susan Cain's TED talk. Listen with the filter of conference design in mind. She says it far better then I. Then take a look at your own events and determine how you can increase (yes, I said increase) participation by including a whole group of individuals who may not already be involved.

I will finish with one of my favorite quotes by Susan, "There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” Right now, we need everyone's ideas to make a difference in our world.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Extra Points for Bunny Slippers?

There I was in my bunny slippers lounging on the couch last November just back from the BSR 2011 Conference. My schedule didn't allow me to attend EventCamp Vancouver in person and I didn't want to miss it, so virtual I was. Laptop on my lap (I get that term now) I was streaming the content, engaging in the 1000 Acts of Green game, and tweeting away.

How was it?, you ask. Fantastic! I felt as if I were actually in the room contributing to the discussion, networking and learning! The only time I was left out was during the coffee break, but then I just I went to my kitchen, poured myself a cup and settled back into the couch.

I believe one of the reasons I was so enrolled in the event was due to the "Get Your Green On" game app. It allowed me to upload photos, answer questions, earn points and engage with the onsite participants. Popular demand says, I was not the only one to feel this way. The game was so successful, that the partners who developed it have written a guide to tell you about their experiences and help you learn more about green apps. It is available for download here,

Now, I am usually an conference organizer and not a participant, so this was a new role for me. Best of all, I didn't have to get dressed, go to the airport, go through "security theater," fly, check into a hotel or get to the venue. And to top it off my remote footprint avoided enough carbon dioxide emissions to fill 110,000 party balloons! That is a win both environmentally and economically as well as allowing me to spend time nestled at home.