Before the prevalence of virtual events, conventions, trade shows, and other large-scale events used to be a real in-person extravaganza. Attendees eating a four-course breakfast, listening to the industry’s top experts. Exhibitors with 10’ towering trade show booths, replete with second-floor conference rooms and private VIP areas with fully stocked bars. Swanky hotels with over-the-top accommodations and evening dinners and entertainment that made everyone back at the office green with jealousy.
All of these “perks” came with a steep price that neither attendees nor event planners ever thought in terms of. These resulted in an astronomical carbon footprint representing a depletion of natural resources and an increase in global warming implications. For years now, event planners have been dinged for the wanton disregard for the environment that their events cause. But because airline travel is the main offender of a carbon footprint, many event planners were willing to look the other way. That is until COVID-19 forced their hand in 2020. This was the turning point that made event planners look at virtual events as a primary way to get their constituents together, regardless of whether or not they’d rather be there in person or not (they couldn’t, in the case of COVID-19). And talk about the impact on the environment and the lowering of a company’s carbon footprint, both the organization hosting the event and the company sending attendees on plane flights and extravagant meals and perks for their clients, all in person.
So we’ve talked about how things were in the history of events past. But what do we want our virtual events to look like going forward, and how does sustainability play a part in those plans? This really all comes down to why event planners should care about sustainability from a moral and practical perspective. Here are just a few of the benefits to event planners being mindful about sustainability regarding your next virtual event.
As we all know, virtual events mean the elimination of the cost and waste of airline travel and hotel costs. This is this a dramatic step toward reducing your carbon footprint. It also opens the door to companies being able to afford to send more attendees to virtual events. Having a higher number of attendees can come with its own set of challenges, as now virtual events can expect to have 30-40% more attendees than their previous in-person events. You can bet that strong attendee engagement and an enticing agenda are now going to be more critical than ever before.
In the past, if you were a top-name event speaker, you spent a lot of your time in the air. No longer true in the world of virtual events. The benefit to the more well-known event speakers is that they now have more time to fit in speaking engagements. Therefore, event planners might be better able to book a speaker they might not have been able to before the surge of virtual events.
So doing a virtual event from a practical and sustainability perspective is your next step, and you’ve planned your traditional annual trade conference. You’re probably quickly realizing that multiple regional events might make more sense in the future rather than one big blockbuster event. You could even make these regional events hybrid. And because they’re regional, there won’t be airfare costs associated with them, which helps you be further mindful of the reduction of your carbon footprint.
It is true that we are living in a time when virtual events are essentially necessary to keep in contact with our colleagues, our prospects, and our clients. So sustainability has naturally become a part of every event planner’s new normal. Now is a great time to take advantage of the carbon footprint reduction you’re already experiencing. It's time to begin to pay more attention to the sustainability of your events. Hire a sustainability company with lots of experience in helping organizations reduce their carbon footprint. Use a sustainable-friendly technology hosting company to put on your virtual event. And start now developing a company culture that looks for ways outside of your events to encourage sustainable practices inside the workplace. You don’t want to brag about your sustainability efforts with your trade shows if you’re not actively practicing sustainability in other areas of your business (i.e., still sending your sales team to visit customers in person using air travel). Make a point to use different green vendors in your event planning and execution. Educate yourself on steps your company can take to reduce your carbon footprint. Although it is not possible to reduce your organization’s C02 emissions entirely, you can begin your sustainability efforts by measuring your current usage and setting goals for the future. When you start to measure over time, you can make incremental changes along the way that will add up to profound sustainability changes in the future.