Guest column: Leave a lighter carbon footprint with a smart event tech strategy

The events industry made strides toward greater sustainability pre-pandemic. With the return of in-person events, we have an opportunity to start fresh, and do more to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

Research from the Event Manager Blog indicates a three-day conference with 1,000 attendees generates more than 12,500 lbs. of waste, producing CO2 emissions equivalent to four compact cars. In its analysis of 32 conferences, MeetGreen concluded that the typical conference attendee has a carbon footprint of 319 lbs., reflecting intercontinental air and ground transport, waste, onsite power generation, hotel rooms, and venue energy. This number can be even higher based on different variables.

The good news is that more event professionals are focused on creating more sustainable events. A Bizibl Marketing study found that 61 percent of survey respondents have made event sustainability a higher priority, with a majority of corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies incorporating environmental objectives. It has become easier for event professionals to implement more sustainable events. In addition to new resources to guide them, there are event technologies that can significantly reduce an event’s carbon footprint.

Going green is becoming easier

The ISO 20121, the International Standard on Sustainable Event Management, was developed to guide event professionals’ sustainable practices from event planning through staging. It helps them recognize and reduce negative environmental impacts.

Practically speaking, eliminating exhibitor and attendee air travel, which is the largest contributor to an event’s carbon footprint, is not possible unless all events continue to be virtual. Event professionals can, however, pick venues that are near airports and hotels to reduce ground transportation. They can also opt for a hybrid event to reduce travel.

Moreover, planners can institute policies banning or minimizing the quantities of printed and promotional materials that exhibitors bring and place recyclable waste stations throughout the venue for paper and plastic discards. Where event professionals have the most control is in the use of event technologies that support a greener event.

From online registration and paperless check-in to event apps and digital signage

Event professionals can rely on sophisticated solutions that streamline administrative tasks while elevating the attendee experience. Paperless event registration can be easily achieved with a web-based software solution that facilitates a branded 24/7 online registration process or, alternatively, onsite manned registration or self-registration at kiosks strategically placed at the venue entrance. The software enables fully automated, secure credit card payment and provides an automatic email confirmation.

Using the software, event planners can capture valuable data, including attendee profiles, demographics, and behavioral analytics, using its survey feature. They can create and print branded badges in seconds using multiple templates to distinguish attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, presenters, and any other event participants. The badges can incorporate barcodes with embedded profile data for easy scanning and attendee tracking. Additionally, the registration software enables real-time reports to be generated to track attendee counts, onsite versus pre-event online registration, geographic origin of attendees, and other data.

Also assisting event professionals in their sustainability goals are audience response systems. They enable engagement with event participants without using printed questionnaires, but rather digitally through live polling, electronic Q&As, and social media. Using an audience response system, slides can be shared, interactive quizzes conducted, and event feedback solicited.

To generate event buzz, a Twitter wall can be provided before an event occurs to convey event details (date, time, venue, agenda, presenters, etc.) and attract sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees. During the event, the Twitter wall can be used to encourage engagement and highlight scheduled events, social activities, and information about restaurants, transportation, cultural spots, and any other details about the surrounding area. Following the event, it can be used to communicate its success, highlights, and feedback from participants.

An event app eliminates the need for printed materials to convey event information, such as the schedule, list of exhibitors, venue floor map, local restaurants, transportation maps, and event contact information. It also allows the event coordinator, sponsors, and exhibitors to send push notifications, surveys, news information, and promotional items to attendees in real time.

The virtual event hub

Another eco-friendly event technology is the virtual event hub, a central repository for use by event planners, attendees, speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors. The hub can facilitate pre-show registration and payment, host personalized agendas and pre-recorded or live videos, and enable one-on-one meetings, networking, and sponsor pages with video, documents, and chat functions. The hub also provides an opportunity to custom-brand an event with logos, taglines, images, and other content.

The way forward

Eliminating promotional materials and the environmental impact associated with their production, storage, transport, and disposal and leveraging event technologies is within every planner’s reach. Today’s event technologies, including those discussed above, can help reduce waste and CO2 emissions, promote engagement, and establish an environmentally responsible event.



Randy Bailey is a senior solution sales executive with SmartSource, specializing in technology rental solutions for client meetings and events.

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