If you had to guess how many people in the U.S. attend a convention, tradeshow, or conference each year, what would you say?  15 million?  85 million?  Would you believe around 205 million Americans attend such an event each year and this number excludes "business meetings" and "incentive events."  

How do you react when asked to attend a meeting?

(a)  Shout, “Whooo Hooo, my 3rd Vegas conference this year!!  Artificial light, incessant noise and complete excess….here I come!”
(b)  Muster an un-enthusiastic “Awesome,” while secretly wishing you could stick toothpicks under your eyelids rather than drag yourself to Orlando…. in August.
(c)  Look at the positive side… you won’t have to listen to your co-worker contemplate her cat’s hair loss. 

If you find yourself close to or squarely in the dread/apathy camp, you have an opportunity to re-envision your meetings.  Strategic, thoughtful events provide an extraordinary opportunity to make sustainable connections, reinforce branding, AND make the world a better place.  

A Deeper Shade of Green

If you are like me, you’ve heard a lot about “greening your meeting” in the last few years.   Here are some of those ideas:

  • Select hotels and suppliers with green policies and practices
  • Host all multi-session meetings at a central location to limit transportation needs
  • Minimize paper with web based invites, online event registration and electronic follow-up
  • Utilize double-sided printing for all collateral and meeting related materials
  • Give recycled materials precedence when making meeting supply purchases
  • Decrease the usage of paper and plastic by using real china for all food and beverages
  • Coordinate with venues to use bulk dispensers for all food and beverage
  • Encourage speakers to use electronic means of presentation
  • Choose a venue with an in-house recycling program and encourage recycling

While initiatives such as these do provide environmental benefits, they fall short of unleashing the true power of a sustainable meeting.  Need inspiration?  Consider adopting the Copenhagen Sustainable Meeting Protocol (CSMP).  The Protocol considers five areas as instrumental in achieving measurable sustainability meeting performance:

  • Visionary Leadership
  • Strategic Approach
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Communication
  • Operational Integration
  • Transparent Governance and Assurance

It is within this expansive framework that we can find the space to create meetings that truly address the triple bottom line. 

Events as a Multiplier

If your organization has a sustainability mission, use every event as an opportunity to reinforce that message.  As the CSMP states, “Events can act as a multiplier of an organization’s sustainability program by providing a model environment within which people can discuss and live the values and visions of the brand’s sustainability commitments. It is this tangible way of providing solutions to a complex problem that helps to engage and inspire employees, partners and clients.”  

The key here is to keep your organization’s sustainability message consistent.  Doing so will reinforce your brand and engage your stakeholders.

Events in Action

Now that you understand how powerful events can be when done right, what can you do to create the right kind of event?

  • Evaluate your company’s location, culture, and demographics:  Instead of a destination that has no connection to your home office, consider a phenomenal property within a 2-hour drive.   Properties like The Inn at Perry Cabin a short drive from DC and The Hermitage just outside Nashville are both unique, socially responsible properties that host meetings and conferences.
  • Make sure your meeting has an emotional component:  The events I remember most are the ones that made me feel part of something bigger than myself.  Whether a motivational speaker, or just an inspiring TED talk, capitalize on having your most valuable assets – people – all together in one space and inspire them.
  • Connect with the community you are visiting: Easily connect with the community through Innovative new giving platforms like Food Connect which strives to be the Uber of leftovers, or events that build bicycles for the town’s needy youth.  Connecting to others will drive a deeper connection among your team.  
  • Do something unexpected: Remember the feeling you got when your teacher taught class outside on a gorgeous fall day?  Take your meeting outside and watch your people light up.  Properties like Skytop Lodge in the Poconos take people on “active walking meetings” through glorious woodland trails.   
  • Engage your Sustainability Department: Does your office has a clear sustainability roadmap in place?  If not, suggest they consider a sustainability management solution like Sustrana. Sustrana can help you build the business case for sustainability, assess risks, pick projects, and engage shareholders – all things that will create a strong foundation for sustainability.  

That’s a wrap

Events no matter how well planned are only as effective as the organization that supports them and the mission behind it.  Having a clear overarching sustainability plan in place makes creating events that support your people, planet and profit… a breeze!

Interested in learning more about getting buy in for sustainability?  Click here!