Sunday, December 28, 2008

Recession Proofing your Green Event

Two of the most popular topics right now are recession proofing your meeting and running a green event. Companies are tightening their budgets and activating cost-cutting measures controlling which meetings they can attend. Simply charging less may not be enough. Running a green or sustainable event means eliminating waste, making tough choices in venues, and selecting food and beverage options that are better for the environment and the surrounding community. Traditionally the two goals sit in opposition to one another. This two-part article will discuss the new creativity and technology being used to establish green events that are profitable.

We’ve only recently come to understand these ideas overlap to provide a dual benefit. For example, we like a process that allows an attendee to “bookmark” a booth, speaker or person they meet. As the event comes to close, this information becomes available on line. The speaker, vendor or event manager can see which attendees reviewed the brochures, website and speaker materials. Identifying those more interested and qualified attendees is the true value of their efforts.

When the physical event is over, the online version helps people connect, review and share information. By using the Internet, more people are exposed to the event which helps it evolve and grow. Eliminating brochures, handouts, presentation materials and surveys is the best way to green your event and in doing so you actually improve the event. Imagine the number of steps a brochure travels from tree to paper to printer to event to hotel room trash can to landfill...never once letting someone know a qualified person is reading it.

In the current state of technology, we’re halfway between traditional and electronic. While it’s still easier to grab a colorful pamphlet off of a table, a growing percentage of us carry a phone with an Internet connection and color camera. Technology can show us what we want when we want it. The shift from sorting through a stack of papers in a filing cabinet versus Google-ing any document at any time on a number of devices will continue to become more of a reality.

While these ideas sound very green, the primary goal is to provide more qualified leads and data analysis to establish a proper value for the investment in booth space and sponsorship programs. Knowing what was popular or not, and feeding this information back into the event creates a more profitable and better experience for attendees and stakeholders.

Recession proofing isn’t just about how to lower costs or trim the features out of an event to make it affordable. If we measure why people participate in an event and use this to make a better event, then we have an opportunity for future success. In any economy people decide to attend an event based on a combination of the following:
  • Social Networking for new business, a new job and new ideas
  • Subject matter experts who are speaking on interesting topics
  • Continuing education that cannot be found in their local city
  • Researching new products and services in a one-day walk of the show floor
  • A general feeling of being inspired and invigorated for another year of success
An event that offers this combination can create something not found anywhere else. Content is still king and measuring the popularity of what people found to be the best goes well beyond a paper survey.

From audience response devices to kiosks to text messaging, there are many ways to survey that are faster, greener, and more successful. Instead of a post-mortem after the event, gather information in real-time and tweak the event in progress. Give attendees a voice during the event for an engaged and attentive audience. Electronically poll a group at the beginning of a breakout session on topics they would prefer and then use the same method to survey what they thought at the conclusion of each session.

Not to ignore the discussion of trimming costs as part of the recession proofing process, next time we’ll look into the hard costs that go into running an event. In the meantime, review your event expenses and ask, “How many truly add value?” So much of the traditional process can be reduced and even eliminated. In part two we will discuss how to modernize the event process while trimming costs.

May you all have a happy and prosperous 2009!

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