Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Have We Picked All of the Low Hanging Fruit?

This question gets raised frequently in the sustainability world in 2013.  We've been at this a while, shouldn't we move on to the hard stuff?  Green meetings are no different and has it's own list of the "low hanging fruit:"
  • Recycling during the event
  • Eliminating individual water bottles
  • Reducing or eliminating handouts
  • Donating leftover conference bags
  • Eliminating polystyrene cups

Many organizations have instituted these initiatives for a meeting and then promptly checked off the box marked, "Sustainable Meeting."  Done.  If only it were just that easy.  Even these seemingly simple items, the first step in holding a sustainable meeting, take considerable consistency to accomplish each and every time. 

For instance, a conference may return to a venue which had an incredible recycling system one year ago, yet thanks to a variety of circumstances, can only recycle paper the day of your event--no bottles or cans.  Or the conference that travels throughout North America eliminating polystyrene cups in most locations, but is unsuccessful in a southern city.  Or the individual water bottles that crept into 500 box lunches when no one was looking.

While green meeting practices continue to be implemented, venues are being certified, standards are being addressed, the everyday low hanging fruit still demands our time and attention.

If you are like us, you just keep picking away, one event at a time, because the low hanging fruit comes back every year. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Let's Get Engaged

Engaging and connecting people...it is what we do.  Whether the engagement is face-to-face, virtual or hybrid, our core competency as meeting managers is to bring information, education and a sense of community to our audience.

A new report by Virtual Edge Institute in Smart Meetings, June 2013, finds the virtual event audience is trending up.  Here are a few of the findings:

  • 67% of respondents said their online attendance is on the upswing
  • 50% want to make money with their online event activities
  • 40% hope to leverage online events to drive participation to face-to-face meetings
  • 35 % indicated that attendees are averaging more than three hours in an online event

Getting started producing virtual meetings is probably the hardest part.  Here are a list of resources to help you get engaged in the fastest growing trend the meetings industry:

Lessons Learned:  Hybrid Meetings
This article will share our perspective in getting started with hybrid meetings.

12 Best Practices for Hybrid Meetings
Concise list of practices for virtual meetings by Bill Cooney

Four Takeaways from a Hybrid Meeting that Worked
Thought-provoking discuss of what worked at EventCamp Vancouver by Mitchell Beer

12 Questions to Consider When Hosting a Hybrid Event
Jeff Hurt brings in the event sponsor point of view

Helping Your Speakers Navigate Hybrid Events
Speaker management requires extra care and training when dealing with a virtual audience.  Carole Garner and I share our learning.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

No Event is an Island

When MeetGreen had an opportunity to coordinate a sustainable event in the British Virgin Islands this spring, volunteers were not hard to find. Our Portland, Oregon, based planners were especially tired of the long, rainy winter and enthusiastic about the project.   Armed with event expertise and sunscreen, Jaclyn Skrivseth, Project Manager, boarded a plane for adventure.

While her stories are many, today she shares some of her “lessons learned:”

  1. The supply barge only comes when the barge decides to come. It is important to know if the barge is front loader or not to match the dock when it does arrive.
  2. When sending dignitaries to the event by boat (the only option), make sure you know the height of the dock and if it matches the height of the boat. 
  3. Events tend to be formal (suits and dresses) in the British Virgin Islands, so let guests know they should dress appropriately for walking on sand and getting in and out of boats. 
  4. You need to brush up on the local island dialect asap. 
  5. Polystyrene is not an endangered species and neither is 90’s music. 
  6. All the facilities and venues are very small, you need to check the capacity of the sewer system. 
  7. If you order port-a-potties to subsidize the sewer system, they will have to be barged in. See Item #1.
  8. If the event grows and your hotel room is sold, you may have to sleep on a boat. 
  9. Plan for rain, it isn’t always sunny on a tropical island. That is why they are so green. 
  10. Local food is not local unless it is a fish. Ignore the chickens roaming the streets. 
  11. It may not be easy to set up a recycling system where the garbage is incinerated, not hauled. 
  12. Advise guests to carry-on their important items. Charter airline and transfer baggage service is not dependable. 
  13. Mailing addresses are all PO Boxes and getting a street address is difficult. Warn sponsors in advance to allow for Item #1 and onshore delivery. 
  14. Even a green meeting planner has to resort to bottled water when it’s not safe to drink. 
  15. Don’t upset the local vendors as they may be the only one able to provide the service on the island. 
  16. Know how to maintain a professional demeanor with sweat running down your face or when riding around in a small inflatable boat. 
The event was wildly successful and great strides were made toward the sustainability of that region of the world. Jaclyn looks back on her planning adventure with both pride and a new appreciation for island planning.

Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Show and Tell

Just like back in school, we can all learn from a good "show and tell" session.  Today's session involves sustainable solutions for a couple of difficult logistical requirements.  Everyone knows meetings can't do without signage and name badges, but both of these usually require unsustainable solutions.

Last month's Living Future's unConference 2013 incorporated two great ideas.

Printed on a sustainable substrate, these session signs saved both materials and human resources.  Each room sign was printed with the session names for the entire day.   Even better, just flip them over and you will find the next day's sessions for the same room.  Brilliant!  The bonus for meeting planners with tired feet, is the signs could be put out once in the morning, used for the entire day and simply turned around the next morning.  A quick calculation estimates this system saved over 200 additional signs being produced for the event.

This is the event's program.  This is also the participant's name badge.  A name badge label is simply affixed to the white side of the program and a lanyard clipped through the hole.  And there you have it...a small program which minimizes resources and a name badge without the plastic cover all in one neat, conveniently located package.

Participants loved this solution and happily recycled them after the event.

Photo Credit: Shawna McKinley